I’ve had to learn how to navigate the healthcare system over the last few years. If you read my last blog post, I am a cancer survivor! I’ve been through some ups and downs, some highs and some lows, but here I am. Through my journey, I learned some ways to succeed in my health outcomes and I want to share them with you in hopes that my experiences and insights can help shed light for others out there who are also trying to navigate the healthcare system:
1.Take charge of your own health
This is a must! In order for your treatment plan to go the way you want it to, taking charge of your own health is key. Make appointments that will work with your schedule, call to confirm the day and time and show up to every appointment. Trust me, I know it seems daunting and overwhelming to go to a lot of doctor appointments especially for chronic illnesses. But don’t you want to stay on top of your health? Also, just showing up isn’t good enough. It’s important to be an active participant who is driving the conversation and asking insightful questions. Each check-up is important to assess your improvement and make further progress in your care plan. From follow up tests, to radiology studies and more, this information will help your path to recovery so don’t delay! Do you have additional tips? If so, we’d love to hear them – you can share in the comments below.
2.Go to your doctor appointments prepared
Did you know that engaged patients have better health outcomes? In this day and age, your doctor should be able to give you a treatment plan spelled out for each condition so be sure to ask!
You know your body better than anyone else, so it’s critical for you to stay informed on all aspects of your care. Bring your full, updated medication list with name, dose, and reason to every doctor’s appointment. If you are unsure, ask your doctor to help you make this type of a list. Having this information engrained in your mind will avoid any sort of medication mistakes. I would also like to encourage you to do your homework and have an agenda for what you’d like to discuss with your doctor for each appointment. Whether it’s questions, feedback on the treatment plan it helps to be engaged! So, write down the points you want to make on a piece of paper and bring it with you. Remember that engaged patients drive the conversation about their healthcare – so here’s to your health!
3. Communicate effectively
One of the keys to ensuring your best health is communication! Not only do you need to make sure to ask the right questions, you need to know how to communicate with your healthcare providers. The American Cancer Society has a list of good questions you can ask your doctor and so does the Center for Advancing Healthcare. For example if you were just started on a new medication and now you have a cough or some other symptom, bring this to your provider’s attention right away. Talk through what may be going on, what the alternative choices are and anything else that comes to mind. The best conversations you can have with your healthcare team should be a back and forth dialogue where shared decision making is happening. A few other tips:
- Pay attention and try to maintain a calm manner throughout each conversation, even when it may be a stressful and intimidating environment.
- Be persistent when following-up. If you are waiting to receive results from a certain test, follow-up by calling or e-mailing and make multiple attempts if needed.
- Keep a record of doctors’ names, their specialties, phone numbers, and addresses so you can be in touch when questions arise.
4. Bring your spouse, loved one, or friend with you
We’ve all been there – navigating the healthcare system can be overwhelming at times, which is why it’s important to lean on family and friends during a stressful time. They can provide comfort during a scary procedure, help write down information during an appointment, or just drive you to and from an appointment. Even though you may not want to ask for help, it’s worthwhile. Mitigating stress will make navigating the healthcare system so much easier for you. So, don’t be scared to reach out to a friend or loved one. It can make a big difference in your treatment plan and in your health outcomes.
In summary, it pays to be a highly engaged patient so that you can have the best health outcomes possible. Put your health in your hands and partner with your team. I’m wishing you good luck in your path!
Lindsay Densmore is a cancer survivor who became adept at navigating the healthcare system after attending multiple appointments and hospital stays. She is excited to share her personal experience to help others. What did you learn and what would you like to share? Post below your comments are always welcomed and appreciated!