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Be Your Own Home Health Care Advocate

Be Your Own Health Care Advocate

Communication is crucial to good health care. Just “showing up” to your doctor appointment is not enough. Research shows that when people take an active role in speaking up and asking questions to their doctors they are healthier.  A passive patient is less likely to get well.

"Patients often don't speak up for themselves", says Dr. Paul Haidet, staff physician at the DeBakey VA Medical Center, in Houston.

 “Patients should be more demanding of their doctors especially when it comes to their own medical files. "Don't think ‘Gee, I don’t want to be a bother’” says Steven Katz, MD, an internist and professor of medicine at the University of Michigan.

Think about your relationship with your physician as a two-way partnership, with you clearly stating problems, worries, or desires; your doctor offering his/her expertise and experience; then both of you making decisions about treatment or next steps. 

Here are some ways you can begin to assert yourself and get the most out of your health care system:

1.Create a Health Care Journal – Turn a 3-ring binder into your health care journal (ok and for those of you more tech saavy use your ipad).Consider the following sections:

    Provider visits (record questions, answers, next steps from each visit),  Lab work results, Medications (list current /discontinued meds, prescription and over-the-counter, including vitamins, list dates meds were started and discontinued, dosages, frequency Procedures, Treatments, Surgeries, Immunizations, Medical diary (keep track of how you are feeling, chart blood pressure, blood sugar readings, or anything else applicable to your conditions), Conditions, Diagnoses

    2. Prepare for the Visit – Write down and prioritize any issues you wish to discuss.  Bring   your note book.  Don’t be embarrassed sharing any information with your doctor, such as sexual issues, depression, incontinence. 

    3.  Focus and Use your Time Wisely During the Visit – If you use a wheel chair, walker  or cane, give yourself extra time to get there.  Make sure you have glasses, hearing aids and anything else you need. Be organized, be clear, listen well, take notes (or have someone with you that will take notes).

    4.  Be Assertive and Ask Questions – If you don’t understand what your doctor is recommending, ask questions until you are clear.  It is ok to ask, why a particular medication is being prescribed, if there is a less expensive alternative, whether a certain procedure or treatment is necessary, and what would happen if you did not do anything. 

    5.  Be Prepared to Follow Through – Once you thoroughly understand the options and have chosen a course of action, set up a plan to follow through.  Take the medications as ordered, get the necessary lab tests, show up for the scheduled treatments, follow the prescribed diet or exercise plan. 

    Be Your Own Health Advocate!


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