Putting the ‘Care’ back in Healthcare: The Importance of Advocating for Your Health

Putting the ‘Care’ back in Healthcare: The Importance of Advocating for Your Health

We’ve all at some point gone to the doctors whether it be for a routine check-up or care for a specific ailment. However, these routine checkups should not be seen as such, for your body and well being is on the table, literally! I admit that doctors can be intimidating, for they tend to know a lot more about the body and it’s functions than we as patients do, and don’t seem to have time to sit and explain. So we sit there, vulnerable, confused and shaking our heads in agreement because hey, doctor knows best. Here at Tranquility Labs though, we do not agree with this method!

Self Advocacy and Communication with Your Provider

Now don’t get me wrong this is not an effort to discredit doctors, but an urgency to encourage individuals… YOU. Start effectively advocating for your healthcare, or assigning a trusted individual to do so. After all, your doctor works for you, so it only makes sense that you supply them with all the details and press for understanding when the lingo gets to grandiose. This can seem intimidating at first, but is necessary to break the doctor/patient barrier. Doing so enables you to have a say in your healthcare and gain an intimate understanding of your body and your course of treatment. Often times, patients go head first into a treatment plan that they know nothing about and find themselves worse off and with more symptoms than they previously had. Don’t get caught in this cycle!

Speaking up and advocating for your healthcare can save you a lot of time, money, suffering and uncertainty. For only you, us, the patients know how we feel inside. Therefore, it is up to us to make our voices heard and receive the attention and treatment plans that we believe in and understand. With addiction rapidly rises in the US, it is imperative that we explore all the options that we have available to us before blindly committing to an all to often, generalized diagnosis. It’s up to you to put the care back in healthcare. To be honest, open, curious and knowledgeable. Quite frankly, to give a damn.

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According to the National Patient Safety Foundation, “A health advocate is a family member, friend, trusted coworker, or a hired professional who can ask questions, write down information, and speak up for you so you can better understand your illness and get the care and resources you need…” But let’s expand this further. I am aware that many of us are private and prefer to keep the details of our health to ourselves. If you are one of those people then it is up to you to advocate for yourself. You must make the commitment to follow up and make your health a priority, not an annual chore.

Being an impactful self advocate starts with communication. Communicating with your healthcare team and expressing your needs and preferred care. Now, I am not saying you need to be well versed in medical terms and anatomy. Rather, have a general understanding of YOUR body your symptoms and the outlying factors affecting them. Don’t be afraid to do a little research. Your active involvement in your own healthcare helps them to be better provide you with the specific care you need and deserve. Think of yourself as part of a team, with each member of the team having something important to contribute… and what you have to contribute is knowing you better than anyone else! So if at any point you feel as though your needs aren’t being addressed or your voice isn’t heard, it may be time to reassess the players on your team, including yourself.

Keep Track of Your Health

We’ve all heard or experienced this scenario many times over: you have a worrisome symptom or concern that you intend to share with your practitioner, but once you step foot in the doctor’s office you draw a blank and suddenly find yourself back at square one. This is not effective advocating at all and only widens the gap between you and your physicians. A simple solution is to keep a journal. This way you have the opportunity to paint the whole picture in the moment, rather than relying on memory and adjectives. When journaling about your health (mental and physical), it is important to be as detailed as possible.

Instead of writing, ‘today I was anxious whilst driving to work’ try and be more inclusive of the environment and circumstance that may have contributed to that feeling. Doing this is crucial to being prepared for your visit to the doctor, it lessens the chance of forgetting a particular question or concern. Also you get the chance to look back and reflect on your body and state of being. You may notice patterns or similarities that allow you to narrow down your woes and do some research. Who knows, after looking back at your journal you may realize that there are other, non medicinal approaches to explore. Regardless, keeping track of your body allows you the opportunity to be more confident and transparent with yourself and your healthcare team.

Risk vs Reward: Prescription Medications

Being an active advocate is doubly important when it comes to prescription medications. With addiction on the rise in the US, particularly pertaining to prescription medications, being knowledgeable, safe, and conscious of your medications is vital. 

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Whether you’re the student looking for a boost in concentration, the new mom desperately seeking refuge from unfamiliar stress, or the soldier seeking solace from the pain; we all virtually have access to prescription medications. Which means we are all capable of becoming dependent. In fact, ‘34% of American adults take at least one prescription drug, and 11.5% take three or more prescribed medications.’ Many individuals are under the illusion that if a doctor prescribes something, then it’s automatically safe. Let’s be real, this just isn’t true and over prescribing happens more often than not.

Blanket treatments and lack of alternative options in medicine greatly limits the patient’s choice, and without choices, you have no voice. Again, I am not saying that every doctor is guilty of this, nor am I saying that all medicine is bad. However I’ve seen first hand, especially when it comes to mental health, a startling eagerness to prescribe rather than explore. Prescription medications force changes in the body, which often leads to some less than desirable side effects. The risk vs reward must be thoroughly discussed and understood before continuing on your unique healthcare path. There are many alternative/natural choices that are effective for scores of ailments. Adding these options allows you to widen the circle of care available to you, enabling you to gain a bit more perspective.

Empower Your Body and Mind

Advocating for your health is not only empowering but it presents us the opportunity to really get to know our bodies. Finding the right team, communicating, and knowing all options available promotes a more efficient and personalized treatment plan. Gone are the days of going to the pediatrician with your parent or guardian and not having a worry in the world. Gone are the days of trusting that the adults would take care of you, while you patiently anticipate that sticker you got for being complacent… Now YOU are the adult patient or caregiver. The entrusted voice is yours. Use it and keep using it. Putting the care back in healthcare starts with you!