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Health Care Self-Advocacy: Be the Squeaky Wheel

Health Care Self-Advocacy: Be the Squeaky Wheel

It’s your body, and no one has more incentive to take care of it than you do. You can’t depend on anyone else to take the reins when it comes to your health. The responsibility lies with you. Don’t be a passive patient; be a squeaky wheel.

Be pro-active about your health.

  • Make healthy lifestyle choices when it comes to diet, exercise, sleep, and any condition-specific requirements. You may have no control over your genetics, but how you treat your body every day has an enormous impact on your overall health and on your quality of life.
  • If you’re healthy, your goal should be to stay that way for as long as possible. If you have a medical condition, it is your responsibility to research and educate yourself as much as possible. Your doctor can steer you toward good resources, but you’ve got to do the homework.
  • Think beyond modern medicine and compliment it with natural techniques for maintaining good health and harmony. Don’t forget to feed your spirit with meditation and relaxation techniques. 

Visit Care2.com’s Healthy and Green Living for eco-friendly health and wellness tips.

Foster a strong doctor-patient relationship.

  • Your time with the doctor is limited, so make good use of it by communicating your concerns clearly.
  • Be honest, however uncomfortable it may be. Don’t deny that you smoke or drink if you actually do, or that you take medicine as prescribed even if you don’t. You are free to decline to take your doctor’s advice, but lying to your doctor about your lifestyle habits could lead to disaster.
  • Be prepared for your doctor appointment. Bring a list of questions and the names and dosages of any medications you are taking. If you have previous test results, bring them along. If you have an undiagnosed illness, keep a journal of symptoms and how you attempt to treat them.
  • Ask questions about suggested treatments, alternate treatments, warning signs, etc. If you don’t fully understand something, repeat it back to the doctor for for accuracy. Make an appointment for a yearly physical well in advance.
  • Rather than being a passive patient, partner with your doctor and take an active role in your own health care. Don’t hesitate to get a second opinion if need be. Your action plan should include a living will and a designate to speak for you should you become unable to speak for yourself. Keep all your medical information in one place for easy access.
  • If your doctor is demeaning, dismisses your concerns, or is generally not acting in your best interests, it’s time to search for a new doctor.

Advocate for yourself and your family. 

  • If you have health insurance, learn what your policy does and does not cover. If you believe your insurer has made an error, don’t hesitate to call them on it — and document, document, document — every single interaction you have with them.
  • If you do not have health insurance, contact your local health department to inquire about programs or free clinics in your area. Keep informed on health care legislation. Learn who your congressional representatives and senators are and don’t hesitate to let them know where you stand on the subject.
  • If you must apply for social security disability, get all the facts before you act. Make sure you speak to your doctor first and prepare the proper documentation. If you need a handicapped parking permit, check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to learn what is required before you apply.
  • If a family member is not able to fully answer questions or understand doctor explanations, offer to attend appointments with them. Likewise, bring someone with you if necessary. Ask questions and if you don’t understand, ask again. Don’t hesitate to take out a notebook to jot down important information.
  • If your doctor wants to schedule you for a test, ask why the test is necessary and what can be learned from the results. Is there another way to get the same answer? If you do not receive a report after taking a medical test, call your doctor’s office. Don’t assume that no report translates into a clean bill of health. Insist on confirmation of results.
  • If you have a chronic illness or disability, seek out organizations specific to that condition. Many of them will be able to steer you toward helpful resources, both nationally and in your area.
  • When your doctor pulls out the prescription pad, make sure you understand the specifics of the medication. What is it? Why is being prescribed? Is it necessary? Do the potential risks outweigh the benefits? Is there any other way to handle the problem? Do your doctor and pharmacist know about other drugs you are taking? How long should you expect to take it? Can you handle the expense? 

Research and learn — seek out multiple trusted sources for medical information.

  • Disability.gov – Connecting the disability community to information and opportunities.
  • Kaiser Family Foundation – Non-profit foundation focusing on major health care issues. Non-partisan source of facts and information.
  • Mayo Clinic – More than 3,300 physicians, scientists and researchers from Mayo Clinic share their expertise to empower you to manage your health.
  • Your doctor.
  • Your local Department of Health.
  • Your public library.

Self-awareness + self-education + self-confidence = self-advocacy. Have a voice in your own health care… be the squeaky wheel!

Related Reading:

How to Stay Informed about Health Care Policy and Reform

Guide to Rights under Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

 

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Photo: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/961618


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25 comments

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6:08PM PDT on Mar 25, 2013

thanks

12:37PM PDT on Oct 27, 2011

Very good article, thank you for sharing! I learned a lot from your article and I am somewhat familiar with the terms because of my work with Laser Hair Removal Scottsdale, which is what I spend a majority of my time doing.

2:51PM PST on Jan 25, 2010

Women: don't wear makeup to your doctor's appointments! You are making your doctor guess and, at the best of times, most doctors are merely incompetent. Lipstick covers blue lips, face make up covers tell tale symptoms, under eye make up covers dark shadows, all covering up vital clues. Write the names, strength, and times taken for all medications or, at least, put them all in a bag and take them with you. Hit your doctor over the head with past medical history, they rarely do more than skim your chart.

Yes, by all means, question all prescriptions. People actually believe that their doctor is giving them the best prescription for them and their condition. In actuality, they are pulling out whatever the last salesman in their office gave them. Sometimes it might be the only medication that your "coverage" will allow, even if it has disturbing side effects, and does not recognize interaction with your other medications.

Remember, the doctors you see on tv are actors. Of course they are kind and concerned, they are professionals acting a role. Don't be fooled.

What I would like to know is what to do about doctor's offices that don't send your chart when requested. They ignore repeated faxed requests from my doctor. If I call them and actually manage to get through, they insist that there is nothing they can do, they need to be faxed by your present doctor with your signature. Then they ignore repeated faxes. Who can I complain to?

5:36AM PST on Dec 30, 2009

very informative thankyou.it makes me appreciative of our social security here in europe.

3:26PM PST on Dec 29, 2009

good article

12:20PM PST on Dec 28, 2009

Thanks for the info!

10:52AM PST on Dec 26, 2009

Great information, thanks!

12:39PM PST on Dec 24, 2009

Health care self sovereignty at care2.com

Dear Mr. Kelly form US News & World Report,

Please see my internet site on care2.com under selfsovereignty. My perspective is from someone who has spent over 20 years in the front-line of service in acute care facilities, including research university settings, and in programs funded through "risk reduction" policies of the 80's and 90's.

Most articles and public statements by Obama and other adherents of this health care reform package speak repeatedly about payment of services and waste with surface-level reference to the moral imperative of providing basic services in a manner that is affordable, accessible and with enforceable standards of care.

Your internet magazine's emphasis is from the perspective of defense contractors and/or pharmaceutical companies who work in the educational industrial complex of medicine. You know that this paradigm does not profit from the implementation of basic services.

While working at UC San Francisco, I knew a researcher who resided in the top 10 percent of acetylcholine research and the effect of nicotine on nerve cells. He often joked that on weekends, he spent his time in the streets of San Francisco passing out cigarettes to street youth to get them addicted hoping that this would boost his share of tax revenue for research. He felt terribly guilty and finally went to work for a pharmaceutical to make more money in the private sector.

Policy makers, meaning those from aca

12:52PM PST on Dec 22, 2009

Very informative

11:07AM PST on Dec 20, 2009

continue from T.Newton
Are our elected representative being paid more by someone else they represent? Guess who it guess.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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