Guiding News

Patient Power

Patient Power

We all know how important healthcare appointments are to our ongoing wellbeing. We also know how hectic the day is for our medical providers; the average amount of time doctors spend with patients is under 19 minutes. In this rapid healthcare environment, how can you get the care you need? Two words: patient advocacy.

At its core, patient advocacy means empowering individuals to assert their rights and preferences within the healthcare system. It may include communicating with providers, making informed decisions about treatment choices, and even navigating the system itself. Patient advocacy involves individuals actively participating to ensure they receive the best possible care. It’s also vital to patient- and family-centered care, an approach to healthcare grounded in mutually beneficial partnerships between medical providers, patients, and families.

Whether you go in for a routine visit or for a new concern, there are patient advocacy actions you can take to ensure you get the care you want.

Before the Appointment

  • Figure out the most important concern and what you want to know or what you want to be able to do. By naming what is important to you, you’ll be better prepared to respond in the moment and advocate for your concern.
  • Write down any description or symptoms you want to share and make a list of questions you need to ask. Having all of this on paper, and organized, is a great way to remember.
  • Gather relevant medical records like recent test results or a list of medications, especially if you want to discuss them. These documents can help you discuss and make decisions about your care.

Many patients use protected portals to connect with providers. If you do, you can email all three of the above ahead of time to ensure your doctor is ready to answer your needs.

During the Appointment

  • Stay focused throughout the appointment. Pleasantries like “how are you doing” are fine at the beginning, but try not to go too far from the appointment’s purpose. Refer to the notes and questions you brought.
  • Engage in open dialogue with the healthcare provider, asking questions and seeking clarification when needed. Be honest with your own answers; don’t worry about what the provider might think. Summarize what you understand and take notes to remember important details. Consider bringing a trusted companion to help.
  • Ask about next steps for treatment plans and follow-up visits. Discuss when any lab results will be ready and how you will know the outcome. Make sure to find out any changes you should expect. It’s also a good time to ask when your next appointment should be.

It’s important that any plans for your health align with your values. If you are trying to understand a condition’s impact over time, a helpful question to use is “What is the long-term outlook or trajectory for [the condition]?”

After the Appointment

  • Reach out with any concerns or questions that come up after the appointment. It’s normal to take time to process information, so don’t hesitate to contact the provider or their office for added support.
  • Follow any treatment plans or changes outlined by the provider. These items may include medication instructions, lifestyle changes, or more medical appointments. If you are having a hard time sticking with the plan or the change, contact your provider for additional assistance.
  • Reflect on your experience and provide constructive feedback to the healthcare provider or their team. Doing so helps improve the quality of care and fosters a collaborative healthcare environment.

Patients have a lot of power over their own healthcare – and that’s how it should be. But as the adage goes: With great power comes great responsibility. So, assert your rights to get the care you deserve.

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise with information from JAMAIPFCCHSSNIAWashington Post

Categories: Medical Care