Medicine and medical care can often be complicated with lots of unknown — especially if you are not a medical professional. It can be a scary time with a lot of information to try to process which can become overwhelming. You may find there are times when a healthcare provider is explaining something to you and you nod in acknowledgement, though you don’t completely understand what you are being told. Other times, you may feel as though you comprehend the information, but then can’t remember it after the visit. Additionally, you may experience a sense of not quite agreeing with the recommendation. That’s where advocacy comes in — advocating for yourself or someone else who is seeking health information and having the courage to question.
When you obtain an opinion on your health, approach it as not only fact finding, but also almost like an interview. You may see it as you are choosing who is going to be on your wellness team. Obtaining multiple opinions, if indicated, can be informative, but it can also lead to confusion if you get multiple differing opinions. That’s when it can be helpful to do some research on your own and believe in your gut and internal sense of what makes most sense to you. Keeping a notebook dedicated to your health can assist you in noting down information and questions you may have. It may also be helpful to maintain a 3-ring binder in which you can keep your test results and pertinent findings. Whenever you have a visit with a healthcare provider, ask if you may have a copy of the results or the visit summary — that will save you from needing to do a formal records request in the future.
There are many advocacy groups — both volunteer and those you can hire if you feel you need additional assistance in approaching a healthcare issue. If interested, you can check out the Patient Advocacy Foundation. Another resource many people are not aware of if you are hospitalized is that there is a patient advocate who is dedicated to assisting those who could use an extra set of eyes and ears or who may have had a negative experience. This is provided by the hospital at no cost to you and the advocate might help you navigate an issue or help you avoid having one.
At the end of the day, always be willing to speak up if you don’t understand or are confused, or even if you don’t agree with something you are told regarding your health. Being willing to ask why is empowering. How your caregiver reacts can help you decide who is on your roster and who gets benched.