Learning How to be an Advocate for Your Own Health

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Patients who are actively informed and take responsibility for their health and healthcare decisions make quicker recoveries, and enjoy better therapeutic results than those who do not. Simple steps can be taken to advocate for your own health, even if they may not seem easy at first.

The first step to healing is to actively engage, and accept your diagnosis or injury. This actually may be the hardest step, when a life-changing diagnosis has been suddenly made, or an accident has caused debilitating trauma. Acceptance can be made less daunting through education-read accurate, scientifically rigorous information about your health condition, to be informed when you next speak with caregivers.

When you do see your healthcare provider, arrive on time, and come with questions. Doctors are busy, but they also want to ensure the highest level of care to achieve the best results for their patients. Be sure to have at least three questions regarding your needs and concerns written down long before your appointment, and any follow-up questions you may have as well. Any proposed treatments will have both risks and benefits-if your doctor suggests a new course of treatment or new medication, find out why this choice is being made, and what results you can expect.

Above all else, avoid the last-minute “doorknob” question. This question is often asked right as a physician reaches for the door, and saving the most feared question for the end of your appointment does not allow your doctor to their job thoroughly. Do not hide any portion of your medical history, or symptoms-no matter how embarrassing. Most health problems can be diagnosed by the information you provide your doctor, so be specific and do not gloss over details. A common example of symptom that goes unreported for women would be the urge to pass urine urgently, coupled with painful bloating. While these symptoms could be ignored as gastrointestinal upset and aging muscles in the urinary tract, they’re also important indicators of gynecological cancers. Speaking up, and speaking the whole truth can save your life.

Lastly, be sure to maintain copies of your own health records, and document any phone conversations you have with insurers. Carefully note the date, time, subject of the call and the person you spoke to. Having a clearly documented paper trail of your own can be used if you need to appeal a denied claim of coverage.  Keep a complete list of medications-and their dosage levels-and take this list to every healthcare provider you visit. Harmful drug interactions are easily avoided with multiple prescribing physicians by this simple method, and be sure that a close family member is provided with an accurate copy in case of emergencies.

The physicians at Non-Surgical Orthopaedics want informed and engaged patients, if you should have any questions regarding musculoskeletal injuries or pain management, feel free to contact our office at 770-421-1420 today, or check out our blog for more educational articles.

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