HEALTH: Becoming Your Own Health Advocate – Talking to Doctors | ShesIt

Stand Up for Your Health

 

Going to the doctor’s office in today’s society can be daunting. Doctors today spend an average of 7 minutes with each patient. That only gives you 7 minutes to explain your symptoms and ask any questions you have. Not to mention the time it takes for the doctor to talk.

 

New high-tech and more complicated medicine increases the risk for mistakes to be made that can cause devastating consequences. Medical mistakes are estimated to be the cause of about 440,000 deaths per year in hospitals around the United States. These are only the cases that have been reported by hospitals and is believed to be a lowball number. Many deaths are never reported to be due to medical error and are therefore not in the estimated 440,000.

 

Working in healthcare, I hear a common complaint among my patients that they feel that their doctors don’t listen to them or their concerns. I had a recent experience with this myself.

 

I was gaining weight for no apparent reason and no matter what I did I could not lose the weight. I would work out for hours each week and follow popular diet plans such as Weight Watchers with no results. Becoming frustrated I sought out my doctor for answers. She didn’t seem to believe me that I was doing everything right to lose the weight. She suggested a calorie restricted diet and exercise. I left that appointment very frustrated. I felt that she didn’t listen to a word I said. I sought out a few other doctors with little different results. Then I saw a different healthcare provider who really listened to what I had to say. Within 10 minutes she gave me a new plan that made sense. She thought based on all my symptoms I might be gluten intolerant or have Celiac disease. She suggested I cut out gluten from my diet and within a few months I noticed dramatic changes in my body. I finally felt better!

 

Doctors aren’t all bad or insensitive. They entered their profession because they care about people and want to make them better. However, rising insurance demands increasing the pressure to see patients quickly has created complications. This is why it is so important for you to be your own health advocate.

 

In the past, going to the doctor’s office meant sitting and listening to the doctor’s orders and instructions, but today it should be looked at as more of a partnership. You should feel comfortable asking and questioning your doctor about their plans for your health. Here are a list of ways to be prepared to advocate for yourself.

 

New/Concerning Symptoms

 

If the reason you decided to go to the doctor was because of new or concerning symptoms, be sure to be honest and detailed when describing them to your doctor. It can help to make a list prior to your appointment.

 

If your doctor seems rushed be sure to make it clear that you wish to discuss in entirety your concerns to properly diagnose or test. Be sure to be honest with your doctor, prioritize what you want to discuss, and stick to the point to help get your concerns taken care of.

 

Testing

 

If your doctor suggests you have additional tests done such as blood draw, x-ray, CT, etc. then be prepared to ask questions. Here are some example questions:

 

  • Why are these tests being ordered? How do they fit in with my symptoms?
  • What are the steps involved with this test?
  • Is there any prep for the test that I should be aware of?
  • Any negative side effects?
  • How quickly will the results come back and how quickly will you let me know?
  • What will the tests tell me about my diagnosis?

 

Diagnosis

 

If after tests have been completed your doctor has a diagnosis for you, be prepared. Here are some example questions regarding a new diagnosis:

 

  • Is this diagnosis chronic (long-term) or acute (short-term)?
  • What caused this diagnosis?
  • Is treatable, manageable, or curable?
  • Any long-term effects for my life?
  • Any resources available for me to learn more?

 

Medications

 

It is important to ask questions when being prescribed a new medication. Here are some important ones to remember:

 

  • Side effects?
  • When should I take the new medicine (be specific)?
  • When will the medicine start to work?
  • Anything I need to avoid while on this medicine?
  • How long do I need to take the medicine?
  • How much will the medicine cost me?

 

It is extremely important for you to advocate for yourself. Mistakes are made. Doctors are human and humans are prone to make mistakes. Be sure to be knowledgeable and outspoken to make sure you get the best care you deserve.

 

Emily

Emily Wren has a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science with a background working in Cardiovascular Rehabilitation and wellness coaching. She loves hiking, exploring new destinations, running and being with her family. She also has a passion for writing and helping others become the best versions of themselves!