As children, we’re taught important life lessons like how to be a good friend, how to read and write, and even how to cook. But one essential lesson that seems to be universally left off the docket in our country is how to talk to a doctor, or rather, how to speak up for yourself at the doctor’s office.
What is patient advocacy?
Advocating for yourself as the patient or on behalf of another patient means clearly voicing your concerns or speaking up for yourself at the doctor. Patient advocacy is critical in today’s dizzying and complex healthcare system. Between confusing medical bills and daunting medical jargon, it can be scary to stand up for yourself at the doctor’s office.
But the reality is, your health is of the utmost importance, so it’s worth a bit of discomfort to make sure you are receiving the best healthcare possible. We like to think that healthcare providers will automatically take care of our concerns, but this isn’t always the case. So, self-advocacy is your power, and here’s how you can yield it.
Find a trustworthy doctor.
Not everyone can choose their doctor, but if you can, try to find a doctor through recommendations from people you trust.
Suppose you need a doctor that specializes in particular issues or would like a doctor that works with your minority group. In that case, it’s well within your right to find a provider that you feel comfortable around.
Gather information before your appointment.
You want to walk into your office prepared to advocate for yourself, so arm yourself with important details like the reason for your visit, your concerns, and the questions you’d like answered. It’s easy to get flustered and forget what you want to discuss with your doctor in the heat of the moment, so coming prepared helps alleviate some of that stress.
When you’re in the office, take note of what your doctor explains to you. This way, you can always double-check what was said and make sure you clearly understand the information given to you.
Bring a friend for backup.
It’s easier to stand up for yourself when you have someone else on your side with your best interests in mind. And if you have a friend who’s a healthcare provider or in the healthcare field themselves, then they should be your first pick for who you bring along to your appointment.
Get a second opinion.
When 1 in every 20 patients receives a misdiagnosis each year, it’s crucial to get a second opinion just in case. Even if the first diagnosis turns out to be correct, it never hurts to make sure you’re being treated for the proper diagnosis.
Advocating for yourself at the doctors’ might be new to you, but remember, you aren’t powerless even though you’re the patient. So speak up, use your voice, and make sure your concerns are heard because that is your right.