Living with Chronic Pain
5 Tips for Being Your Own Health Care Advocate
What is self-advocacy?
When living with chronic pain, long-term illness, or a disability, it is often necessary for individuals to advocate for themselves in order to receive the care and resources they need. This may include advocating for themselves with physicians, employers, hospitals, pharmacies, or other groups, such as disability resource offices. Successful self-advocacy ensures needs are identified, personal goals are set, and concerns are shared with a physician. Additionally, it can build confidence, ensure informed health care decisions are made, and secure control of ongoing self-care.
Tips for being your own health care advocate
In the health care system, individuals should be their own health care advocate as often as possible. Self-advocating can be intimidating; however, it can help prevent medical errors and ensure the best possible care is received. Five tips for being your own health care advocate include the following:
- Write it down. Before an appointment, individuals should list any questions or concerns. During the appointment, they should write down important information to serve as a reminder after the appointment. Individuals should organize these notes and keep them in a safe, yet easily-accessible, location for future reference. Other options include asking if the physician is willing to have the audio of the appointment recorded (depending on the legal status of recording in the area), or take a family member or friend as a note-taker.
- Speak up. During medical appointments or conversations, individuals should not be afraid to ask questions to ensure they understand correctly. Cares, needs and preferences should be addressed. They should also bring up concerns if they feel something is being handled incorrectly or inadequately. This provides individuals the opportunity to be completely engaged in their health care.
- Do research. Individuals who are able should research their diagnoses, treatment options, needed tests, future procedures, and medications. This can be done at a local library or online using only reliable and professional websites. A physician may offer a reliable website for research purposes. This can help individuals understand medical terms used by professionals or the aspects of treatment described.
- Check medical records. Many health care systems and medical offices offer online portals or apps where individuals can view their appointments, prescription refill requests, vital signs, test results, and other important information. It is also helpful to obtain a CD of any MRI’s or CT scans. This allows individuals to be committed to their health care by reviewing this information, asking questions when needed, or pointing out inconsistencies or errors.
- Practice the three P’s. If phone calls or messages are not being returned or requests are not being fulfilled, individuals should practice the three P’s: being patient, being pleasant, and being persistent. Medical professionals need a reasonable amount of time to respond to messages and requests. However, if an excessive amount of time has passed, individuals should politely and pleasantly repeat the request or ask if there is someone else who can assist them. Individuals should persist until the need is met.