When it comes to health issues, most of us have a natural tendency to place our faith in the medical system. We believe, or at least hope, that the doctors know what they’re doing and are looking out for our best interests. But doctors are not machines. They’re human beings that can make mistakes. Since we don’t live in a perfect world, our medical system isn’t perfect either.
There was a time when a doctor’s word was final, which is why we tend to look at them as all-knowing beings and regard their opinions as unquestionable wisdom. We do not have their credentials and level of experience, so we assume that they know better.
Unfortunately, viewing medicine as something that happens to us rather than something we can actively participate in leaves us unprepared when we need to make complex health decisions. It doesn’t have to be this way. You can learn how to become your own health advocate.
In recent years, there has been more emphasis placed on patient empowerment. Patients are starting to understand the importance of taking back control over their bodies and health care. This not only provides you with the peace of mind that comes with feeling more in control, but it also helps you improve your medical literacy. As a result, you’ll have more confidence in your decisions. Studies show that this leads to better adherence to treatment and better health outcomes.
This isn’t to say that people should challenge anything and everything a doctor says or dismiss medicine outright, but there are significant benefits to becoming more proactive about our health.
On the other hand, it’s one thing to recognize the benefits and quite another to actually feel confident and empowered. When you’re sick, you feel scared, so when you are discussing treatment options with a professional in a white coat, especially if you don’t fully understand what they are saying, you’re more likely to accept their recommendations without question.
Here’s what you need to do to gain the confidence to advocate for yourself.
Prevention is always better than cure, so don’t wait until you feel sick to see your doctor. Opinions vary, but it’s generally recommended that if you’re under the age of fifty, you should go for a routine check-up at least once every three years. After the age of fifty, it’s better to go every year.
If you see your doctor regularly, you can stay up to date with your screening tests, which means they’ll be able to find potential health problems early and treat them before they can worsen and lead to complications. This, in turn, reduces your healthcare costs and provider better outcome.
If you have a chronic health condition, you’ll need to see your doctor more often so they can monitor your symptoms. Your doctor can tell you how long you can wait between check-ups based on your test results, current health status ad risk factors.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions
Having a good relationship with your doctor can lead to better health outcomes. And in order to build a good relationship, you need clear, productive communication on both sides. To put it simply, you should ask your doctor questions whenever they say something you don’t understand. Most doctors aim to communicate with their patients as clearly as possible, but you need to keep in mind that they spend a lot of time talking to other medical professionals. Sometimes they don’t realize a patient might not understand them.
Patients are usually reluctant about asking their doctors for further explanations. They want to be polite and not take up too much time. Nobody wants to be seen as pushy or demanding. But isn’t it better to overcome this initial discomfort than to lie awake at night, worrying about your health? It’s usually when we get home that we realize we have a slew of questions we should have asked. Now it’s too late. We can either make another appointment or use Google. As we all know, googling your health concerns isn’t the best way to alleviate stress.
You can have a productive and respectful conversation with your doctor without feeling uncomfortable. It will be hard in the beginning if it’s something you’re not used to but know that most doctors are not at all bothered when you ask them questions. Quite the contrary, they welcome it.
If it helps, try making a list of questions before your appointment. There are also situations where asking questions should become an automatic response. For example, your doctor recommends medication, and you’re worried about the side effects. Then ask what side-effects you can expect and which side-effects would require calling them. If you’d prefer a different medication, ask what your options are and why they think this one is best.
Know When to Get a Second Opinion
Diagnostic errors are more common then we’d like to think. That’s why we have regulations set in place to protect patients. If misdiagnosis results in health complications, patients are legally entitled to compensation.
If you have concerns about your doctor’s diagnosis or recommended treatment, it’s best to get a second opinion. When dealing with a common injury or illness such as a simple fracture or strep throat, it usually isn’t necessary. However, if you have an uncommon and often misunderstood medical condition, you should always see at least two different doctors, even if you trust your doctor and their expertise.
This can spare you unnecessary stress and expenses. In some cases, it can even be life-saving. If you’re worried about offending them, know that there’s nothing taboo about seeing several specialists in these types of situations. You can even ask your doctor to recommend another specialist. Many doctors will ask you to see someone else themselves because they want to be sure.
Even when the diagnosis is correct, there may be experimental treatments available that your doctor thinks another specialist is more knowledgeable about, so they will advise you to make an appointment with them. Or perhaps you have a condition they’re not specialized in that might interfere with the treatment they want to prescribe. In that case, they’ll want to work with another doctor to find the best solution
Disclosure: This is a featured post.