Being Our Own Health Advocate
Taking care of our health is more than just eating right, exercising, good quality sleep and empowered, realistic thinking. As we move forward into a world of complex medical issues with ever growing healing alternatives, it is becoming apparent without a doubt, that communication is crucial to good health care. When people take an active role in their care, research shows they fare better – in satisfaction and in how quickly they recover. Without this we open ourselves to the possibility of being misdiagnosed and mismanaged. This is why I encourage my clients to become their own health advocate – actively seeking information through reading and research, asking about options, following up on results, talking about alternatives, getting second and third opinions where relevant, adopting a clear and concise communication style and being assertive.
I really believe and encourage us all to become empowered, informed patients with an approach of a “proactive consumer” rather than a “patient” patient waiting for good health care to find us.
Standing up to our doctor or practitioner is simple but not easy for some people to do. A doctor’s role as an authority figure is still deeply ingrained in our culture and many people’s psyche. Sadly, many practitioners, doctors, specialists still maintain that “patients should be seen and not heard”.
A Meeting of Two “Experts”
The ideal patient-practitioner relationship is like a meeting of two “experts”. The practitioner is an expert in their field and we, the patient, are the experts in our body, our health history, the supplements and medications that we are taking, our symptoms, our motivation towards getting healthy and staying well and some options and alternatives on how to get better.
Words of Caution – A Few Things About Doctors, Health Specialists and Practitioners You May Not Know
- They are under extreme time pressure.
- They know a lot but not everything about medicine.
- Medicine, diseases, syndromes and treatment options are changing DAILY.
- If YOU don’t ask to have something clarified, they will assume you are following and understanding them.
- Communicating in plain English is not taught in medical school.
- Communication and follow-up between your various health specialists and practitioners is not a given, even though they might say it will be done.
- Whether your health specialist has had time to read through results and letters prior to your appointment is not guaranteed, do not assume this.
The Core Skills That Make Being Our Own Health Advocate Easy as ABC
A – Accept the words of caution above. Acceptance does not mean we like it or would choose it and certainly doesn’t mean that we are resigned and have to give up or give in. In resignation, a person lies down and takes it. That is not acceptance. True acceptance means we can see reality for what it is and embrace it with the purpose of effectively responding to it.
B – Believing and prioritising that we are ultimately responsible for what happens to our health and our well being.
C – Communicating in an upfront manner that is clear and concise. Being able to accurately and concisely describe our symptoms and medications will help get our health practitioner on our side. Adopting an attitude of collaboration rather than domination will pay dividends as well. Promptly asking to have something explained if we don’t understand or have our questions answered will give us the information we need. As you can see, being assertive, clear, concise and accurate and are the key for successful communication with our health practitioners and doctors.
Flowing communication can be stifled by our own internal lack of ‘permission’ to challenge authority figures, asking to have our needs met, to persist until we are satisfied.
- Do you have permission?
- In what contexts do you or don’t you have permission?
- What happens when you give yourself permission for this?
- Who took that permission away from you?
A Tip Off
Often those of us who find the ABC above confronting will notice that these core skills are lacking in many areas of our lives – our careers, the office, in our relationships, with our family, in our friendships and with strangers.
Taking the time to discover and develop your ABC skills will benefit you with a satisfying sense of calm and self empowerment. You will learn to clearly ask for what you need, easily make your own choices, learn to say ‘no’ comfortably, learn to ask questions, express disagreement respectfully, respectfully negotiate differences and confrontation, change doctor or practitioner and persist until you get the answers you need. Essentially you morph into an assertive and proactive health consumer.