3 Simple Steps: How To Be Your Own Healthcare Advocate

A while ago I shared my thoughts on why it is so difficult to be and stay healthy, with a focus on body weight. You can read it here.

I will be expanding on each of the eight points I made, beginning with the next post. What I write about comes from my own personal experiences and observations. Everyone is different when it comes to health, because of various health issues, body type, emotional stress, coping skills, age, and so on.

As individuals–our health–needs to be approached as such.

I thought I would start off with a very important issue, something I learned a few years back; how to be my own healthcare advocate. This will also work if a friend or family member is unable to do this on their own. I strongly suggest this as a way to improve communication with your doctor. Also, to figure out where you stand with diet, exercise, and your overall health; increasing your level of knowledge.

1. Do you have difficulty remembering all the details that you wanted to tell your doctor?

This is big, and one of the most important points. If your doctor does not know all the details, how then can he help you?

Before heading to the doctor’s office, take some time, lots of time if necessary, and think about what’s going on. Find a quiet place, and bring a pen and paper with you. Really consider your emotional state, because you will want to be completely honest with yourself, for your own safety. Start paying attention to how your body works. If you start imagining or making stuff up, you won’t get the help you need.

Jot down some notes as you remember; what, where, when, and how.

  • What is the most pressing issue? The most recent? Work back from there. Go back years, if you have to, and be specific.
  • Where were you when you noticed the symptoms? What may be some factors that set it off? Perhaps it was a very hot day. What were you doing differently?
  • When did it start? When did it stop?
  • How long did it last? Making a timeline is an easy way to visualize, for you and for your doctor.
  • Does it integrate with an existing health problem?
  • Why do you think this is important? Not everything needs a doctor, so be sure. Ask someone if you aren’t.
  • Know about the medications you take, including supplements. The pharmacy can print out a list of your medications, make sure you or someone you know, has knowledge of why you take them.

2. Do you feel like your doctor is really listening to you?

This is where detailed notes come in handy. The more detail, the better.

  • Google until you can’t Google anymore. There is a surplus of information , so you do have to take your time going through it very carefully; comparing and compiling your notes. Take this seriously, remember to be realistic. Ask a friend or family member for their opinion.
  • This will raise some questions that you can ask; listing symptoms, and giving you solutions. All of this is for clarification. This is not about being a hypochondriac. Getting answers is not always easy, but if you go in with your questions written down along with some possible solutions, they will more likely be answered.

Let’s face it, doctors do not know everything, nor can they remember everything. They have many patients, all with different issues, and they are very overworked. I’ve noticed dramatic results from taking my health seriously, learning everything I can about my own issues, and bringing up my results during the visit. I think it challenges them, keeps them on their toes, and you end up with some answers through an informed discussion. If your doctor doesn’t like playing that way, find another doctor. Some of them can be a bit pompous, but do gather up your self-confidence and go for it. You have nothing to lose.

3. Do you feel rushed through your visit?

There is a simple way to stop that.

  • When you are making your appointment, state that you need to discuss some issues and need some extra time to do so. The appointments are usually 10-15 minute blocks, and they do overbook in advance of probable cancellations.
  • Take with you, two copies of your detailed timelines, questions, etc. One is for you and the other one is for the doctor. If you go into the detail, that I suggested above, then they don’t have to write everything down, and have time to focus on you. This is also handy, as it will be added to your file for future reference.
  • When you hand over the extra copy, tell him what it is, and that you would like to go over it with him. You can also add, if you are feeling brave, that you will not leave until each question has been answered sufficiently.

My health is a work in progress, and I continue to write down, (like a journal), anything new that arises. Essentially, I have created a baseline for ongoing health concerns. I never head to the doctors office without my notes, and I don’t leave until I have my questions answered. I’ve also learned a great deal about myself, during this process.

I’m sure that some of you may find this a bit ‘whiny’ or ‘obsessive compulsive’. Maybe you never ask questions, and just go along with what the doctor says. That’s up to you, of course, but I want to be in charge of my health; looking at the bigger picture and how it all relates.

If you have anything to add to this, please feel free to leave a suggestion below. As always comments are welcomed and encouraged!




8 thoughts on “3 Simple Steps: How To Be Your Own Healthcare Advocate

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