How to be Your Own Best Advocate

June 15, 2012 in health care costs, Health Insurance, Hospital Bills, Insurance Bills, Medical Care, Medicare, Member Stories

Being Your Own Advocate

In case you haven’t been paying attention to changes in America’s health care system, there’s a general idea that needs to get out to as many people as possible: the gist of it is that, in most cases, today’s consumer needs to be much more engaged in their care and ready to act as their own advocate in order to get the health care and treatment that they need, no matter what their health is like.

You may have heard something like this already: from all corners of the health related media, patients are hearing that they need to “be their own advocates” and get vigilant about not just what they pay for health care, but what kinds of health care they receive and whether or not it fits their specific needs.

But what does it mean to be your own advocate? Looking beyond the cliché, you can obtain good, concrete ideas of how to go about interacting with a family doctor in ways that will help you get better access to the health care you need.

Patient Engagement: What it Involves

The good news on this front is that you may already do a lot of what you need to do to advocate for yourself in a healthcare environment. This includes getting educated about a particular health concern before entering the doctor’s office. It means thinking pre-emptively about the treatment you would like and whether you think it will work, rather than just appearing at the practice and asking about what you should do in response to a particular health condition. It also means educating yourself about the various screenings and non-emergency conditions that can lead to long-term chronic health problems, including hypertension, high cholesterol and other concerns.

You may also do much of your own research, but there are those patients who are passive about health care, who show up at the doctor’s office because they were told to by someone else, and who have not taken the time to get educated about what’s medically routine. It’s these kinds of patients who will be likely to lose out in a fast-paced medical industry that often leaves patients rudderless and fails to really take underlying conditions into account.

What Providers Should Do

Although most experts agree that patients need to pursue some kind of basic advocacy, providers do have a big responsibility. They need to be transparent about costs, while doing their best to diagnose health conditions in a particular patient. They need to be open and hear what a patient is saying, in order to get necessary confirmation for a given treatment plan. Some providers are better at these things than others, but again, you can be vigilant about your care by researching a particular office to see whether doctors are likely to listen and respond, what their financial policies are, and how organized their staff is. It’s all part of taking more control over your health care needs and how you visit the doctor, and it’s something that will serve you and your family well in the long run.

5 responses to How to be Your Own Best Advocate

  1. For those patient who are passive or simply overwhelmed there are professional patient advocates. Patient advocates educate, coordinate and manage patient care, ensuring the patient gets the healthcare they need. While there are currently no nationwide licensing requirements, there are certification programs from accredited University’s such as APAC from the University of Miami.

  2. Any suggestions on the best sites for provider reviews? This question applies to providers in the broad sense including doctors, hospitals, etc.

    I recently visited a doctor who provided me with an explanation that fit my symptoms and provided some closure. This was after three years from start of the problem. I checked out this particular doctor online and saw ‘excellent’ ratings from patients. That would be my rating also.

    On the other hand, previous visits to other doctors, and physical therapists also, seemed like perfunctory testing followed by a litany of less than useful generalizations.

    I feel there is a big difference in motivation and performance of doctors. Checking reviews could be helpful. I understand that the present system of third party payers may be demoralizing to physicians wanting to provide good care, but some do work with the system and take a serious interest in their patients.

    Online reviews can be viewed as a rather negative approach to provider incentive, but if they help patients then maybe they are necessary. If you search this website for ‘reviews’, you will find more discussion.

  3. One site that you may find interesting is http://www.healthcare.gov. See the tab “Comparing Care Providers”.

  4. I do accept as true with all of the ideas you have presented for your post. They’re very convincing and can definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are too short for starters. May you please extend them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

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