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Being Your Own Healthcare Advocate

  • Category: General Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Matt Gougler
Being Your Own Healthcare Advocate

Did you know that adults age 65 and older spend more time in healthcare settings than any other age group? That makes sense, because the older you are, the more likely you are to have one or more medical issues. Since seniors see healthcare professionals frequently, it also makes sense that they serve as their own healthcare advocates. That means they should take steps to help ensure that their healthcare needs and concerns are properly addressed.

Next week we kick off the month of February, which is also Healthcare Consumer Month, and ATRIO Health Plans is taking this opportunity to share ways older adults can best look out for their own healthcare interests.

Healthcare Advocate Checklist

Prior to your next medical appointment, review this checklist.

  • Put pen to paper-In priority order, write down symptoms and other concerns you want to discuss. Present this information at the start of your visit to avoid running out of time.
  • Keep a list of medications-In virtually every healthcare setting, you will likely be asked what medications you’re currently taking. It’s also helpful to keep a list of medications you’ve previously been prescribed.
  • Update your doctor-Inform your healthcare professional about any significant events that have occurred since your last visit. Examples include: going to the emergency room; seeing a specialist; starting a new medication; experiencing changes in appetite, weight, sleep patterns, or energy levels.
  • Be honest-Your healthcare provider can’t properly help you if you don’t accurately describe your symptoms and their severity or otherwise withhold information that could help inform a diagnosis or treatment plan.
  • Ask questions-An important part of being an advocate is asking questions when you don’t understand a medical term or tests/procedures you going to have. Also, don’t hesitate to ask your healthcare provider to repeat instructions that aren’t clear.
  • Take notes-If important or complex information is being shared, be sure to take notes for future reference.
  • Don’t assume-There often is one or more treatment approaches or medications to address any condition. If your healthcare professional presents only one option, don’t assume that’s the only option available. Ask if there are other treatments, medications, etc. Also ask about risks, side effects, and likely outcomes.
  • Keep your own medical records-To the extent possible, keep a medical-records file that duplicates that kept by your healthcare professionals. This record should include information about: current and previous physicians; hospital stays; lab results; diagnoses; procedures; treatments; known allergies; and your family’s medical history.
  • Be proactive-Healthcare professionals and their staff generally do a good job of scheduling appointments, reporting lab results, submitting referrals, and myriad other follow-up steps. If one of these steps doesn’t occur, however, make a phone call or send an email reminder.

Each of us has a crucial role to play in the healthcare we receive, so step up and be your own advocate.