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5 Ways to be Your Own Health Advocate

By: Anapol Weiss

For a long while, most doctor-patient relationships were one-sided: doctors talked and patients listened. Most patients saw their doctors as authority figures that shouldn’t be questioned. But those views are changing and patients are beginning to understand that they play an important role in their medical care.

In fact, research shows that patients who are active participants in their healthcare have greater medical literacy, better treatment adherence and better health outcomes.

Here are five ways patients can be their own health advocate:

1. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Although doctors should use language that’s easy for patients to understand, that’s not always the case. As such, the onus is on the patient to ask for clarification if he or she doesn’t understand something. If a patient doesn’t ask for further explanation, doctors will only assume he or she was heard and understood.

2. Be prepared. Patients don’t usually get a lot of time with a provider so they should use that time wisely. Patients should jot down a list of issues they want to discuss or questions they have and bring the list with them. The list will help guide a patient’s visit and ensure that all his or her health concerns are addressed.

3. Review medical bills for errors. According to Medical Recovery Services, an estimated 8 in 10 hospital bills contain numerous overcharges. Patients should look at bills with a sharp eye. Common mistakes include duplicate charges, wrong quantities of medications or items and being charged for canceled tests or procedures.

4. Have backup. Patients should bring a second set of eyes and ears with them to important appointments. There is a lot of information shared and details may be missed. Having another person there to listen and take notes helps patients get all the pertinent information.

5. Get a second opinion. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality says one in 20 Americans is a victim of outpatient diagnostic errors. Double-checking results with another doctor should be considered, especially if a patient is uncomfortable with a diagnosis. Getting additional input from other providers about testing, diagnosis or treatment can help patients make the most educated decision about their health.

Patients shouldn’t feel intimated by medical providers. Rather, they must be comfortable voicing their concerns and acting as their own advocate.

Patients have a right to expect the highest quality of medical care at all times; any thing less than that is unacceptable. Those who have concerns about their medical care or believe they are the victim of negligence should contact us. The medical malpractice attorneys at Anapol Weiss have a track record of success when it comes to advocating for patients.