15 Ways You Can Advocate for Better Health Care

You hire a contractor to paint your house and expect he will paint it red-because that’s what you said. Instead, he paints it blue because he knows better. After all, it is his profession, not yours and theoretically, he does know more about paint. Would you pay him?

If you just said yes, I may not be able to help……BUT, I’m betting you said no. I’m also betting you would be furious, argue with the Contractor to make sure it gets fixed and then refuse to pay if it isn’t and no-you won’t fight with him or have multiple conversations regarding this same issue. So if you’re willing to fight with a Contractor, why on earth then would you not do the same thing for your body? Surely, your life is WAY more important than your house paint.

One of my Husband’s favorite sayings is that Healthcare is the only sector where they can get things completely wrong or have them make things even worse and the Doctors/facilities etc. still get paid and he’s totally right.

Now I totally and completely get it. You’re exhausted, you feel like shit, you’re likely in insurmountable pain and your mental health went out the window a year (or ten years) ago, along with your old life. So to then argue with a Doctor, Nurse etc just to get your point across can be an insurmountable challenge. Especially if you’re not the type to stick up for yourself. BUT, you are literally fighting for your life. The average Doctors’ appointment is 10 or 15 minutes long AND the person treating you is human…….it’s literally impossible for them to help you without your input.

When I worked as a Project Manager, I was working with a super busy Community Health Center on installing computers and an electronic medical records system. During one of my on site visits, I had an absolutely frantic Doctor pull me into the broom closet when I was walking by. After my heart attack subsided, I listened to this beloved Pediatrician tell me that she could not handle having to use a computer while treating patients. She explained that while she was really, really great at treating babies, she couldn’t balance her own checkbook, let alone turn on a computer. She wasn’t the first, nor would she be the last provider to freak out over using computers in her practice. It was a great reminder of just how human Doctors are which is something that alot of people forget, because we entrust them to have the super powers to cure us. (In case you’re worried, I got all the Doctors computer training so they’d be ok 😉 )

Now maybe it’s because I worked with Doctors for years or maybe it’s because I’ve been fighting and advocating for proper treatment for my kids and I since I was 20. Regardless of the reasons why, I’ve always had the mindset that I am entitled to receive good care. And so are you. So here’s 15 of my tips to receive better care:

  1. Doctors are service providers. You pay (dearly) for their service; whether it be through insurance premiums or paying taxes. It’s not unreasonable to expect to be satisfied with their care.
  2. Trust Yourself and trust that you know your symptoms. It’s very easy to become unraveled when you have someone treating you as though you exaggerate or if you feel dismissed. But if you felt great, would you really be spending your time at the Doctor?
  3. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is their career, but it’s your life. You will only get out what you put in.
  4. Trust your Doctor or switch. You cannot have a beneficial relationship with someone you don’t like or don’t trust. Just because they’re Providers doesn’t mean it will be a good fit. And who on earth do you need a better fit with than the person you entrust your life to?
  5. Keep a journal/symptoms tracker. It’s hard to argue with written data. It also allows you to keep track of what’s new, if meds are working (or making it worse) or to have an historical picture of health/decline.
  6. Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion or see a Specialist. Make sure to ask if they actually know that Provider or if it’s just someone in their network. Often times, they don’t actually know the person they’re suggesting and they just know “of them”. Ask if they can recommend someone they actually know.
  7. Research who you’re seeing. You get resumes and references for people you hire. Why would this be any different? Often times, Providers have a biography online, a list of specialties or interests and other patient’s reviews. You can also ask trusted people in your life who they see and are happy with.
  8. Stand your ground. If something isn’t helpful, isn’t working or just plain isn’t right, stick up for yourself. Eventually, it could mean life or death.
  9. Bring someone with you. This is important for a few reasons……if you’re feeling super crummy, you may struggle to effectively communicate your needs or to keep track of what they’re saying. If you’re feeling good, sometimes it’s just helpful to have someone else there to listen or give an objective opinion or observation to the Doctor.
  10. Bring a list of questions and topics. It’s gotten to the point with my Primary Care Doctor that I just hand her an index card now. That way we focus on what I really need out of my appointment. I keep a running list of questions for all of my appointments.
  11. Insist upon the negative impact your symptoms are having on the quality of your life. This was Bri’s contribution and he was totally right to add it. How much you suffer is totally on you to communicate. A Provider can’t possibly know that you can barely take care of yourself if you don’t tell them.
  12. Request and review your medical records. You have a legal right to your medical record. And what’s more, if there’s incorrect info in that record, it will affect the care you receive from other Providers, because they rely on the information within those medical records to treat you. Keep these folders/files as they’ll be very important if you end up filing for disability. It’s also helpful to have these records when you see a new Provider.
  13. Remember: a good Doctor will value your input. I joke with my Doctor that I’m a Doctor’s worst nightmare with my lists and all my questions. She said the exact opposite, because it helps her.
  14. Always show your appreciation. I always thank my PCP for her outstanding care and when she helped me win my Disability, I brought her an orchid and bought the office a $50 Dunkin Donuts gift card. Because if you’re going to complain about bad care, you have to then be grateful for good care.
  15. Sticking up for yourself and advocating for better care does NOT make you a bad person. It makes you invested in your care or the care of those you love. Anyone should understand that and I can tell you this, Providers most certainly advocate for the proper treatment of themselves and those they love.

We are living in unprecedented times guys……Doctors/Providers are totally overwhelmed and doing their best. Even before the pandemic, I have yet to meet a Provider that only works an 8 hour day. And at the end of that day, just like you, they go home to all their other responsibilities and their family. Except, at the end of those days, they also live with the responsibility of your life on their shoulders.

Doctors train for years and they are highly educated. Yet, all of that information is processed through the mind of a subjective human being. They take all of that knowledge, combine it with experience and factoring information which then tells them how to proceed. It is literally impossible for them to have a complete picture, in a ten minute window, without your help. The more you put in, the more you get out.

Today and everyday, I want to thank all healthcare workers for their incredible care and sacrifice.

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Fighting with Fibro and Living With Purpose. Mom, Wife, Blogger and animal lover. Fighting with Chronic Illness on a minute by minute basis; sometimes winning.

2 thoughts on “15 Ways You Can Advocate for Better Health Care

  1. “Healthcare is the only sector where they can get things completely wrong or have them make things even worse and the Doctors/facilities etc. still get paid” < So true, and there's something very sick and wrong about it all, don't you think? I shouldn't comment too much here because I'm very angry with a lot of things right now (healthcare, government) but we really do, far too often, have to fight for our health and advocate for ourselves, which you know all too well. These are all excellent suggestions. I love that you say about Googling who you're due to see if you can, I do that too. Fantastic post, Stace!
    Caz xx

    1. Thanks so much, Caz. I should have included a #16 that says if all else fails, fight (not physically of course).
      I may even amend it. I’ve been thinking about you and hope you’re getting somewhere (anywhere) with your care in this mess……You should not be experiencing what you are 😕. So for that, I’m sorry. Sending you well wishes, strength and better health. xoxo

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