Be Your Own Healthcare Advocate
Patients place a lot of faith in their healthcare professionals. We trust them to make accurate diagnoses, to prescribe helpful treatments, and to treat us with care. But the fact is, even the very best doctors make mistakes that can cause serious harm to their patients.
Patients can play their own role in advocating for their safety. After all, each individual knows himself or herself best. This week is National Patient Safety Awareness Week – and a perfect opportunity for each of us to begin taking control of our own healthcare.
You can become an effective advocate for yourself by taking a few steps, which are recommended by the National Patient Safety Foundation. Begin by:
- Keeping your own medical records. With the assistance of computers, doctors have become very proficient at sharing complete medical records, but it’s still possible for your doctor’s records to be incomplete (for example, if you neglect to mention a medical facility you visited).
- Know your medical history. While it may be impossible to know every medication you’ve ever taken and every doctor you’ve ever seen, try to remember the following: any known allergies, past diagnoses you’ve received and symptoms you’ve experienced, and your family medical history.
- Know yourself. If something your doctor says doesn’t seem quite right – if a diagnoses doesn’t seem to fit or your medication is causing uncomfortable side effects – speak up.
- Ask lots of questions. When you receive another prescription, get a new diagnosis, or are discussing a possible treatment, ask any questions that come to mind. If you are feeling nervous about a treatment, for example, you can ask what to expect. Have a new medication? Be sure to ask about side effects and when to report on any changes.
- Always follow up. Whether you’re checking on lab results or scheduling an appointment, be proactive about calling and checking in. Doctors and nurses try their best, but they may forget to call with test results or to pass along the referral you’ve been waiting for. Don’t hesitate to put in a call to your health care team.
- Keep personal medical information on you at all times. A medical information wallet card, available at the National Patient Safety Foundation website, can give emergency responders information about your allergies and medications. That way, in the case of an emergency, you can rest assured that you won’t be given drugs that could cause serious reactions or interactions.
Patient Safety Awareness Week is dedicated to increasing our awareness of our own safety. Each of us can play a central role in advocating for our own safety and wellbeing. In considering how you can plan for your long-term wellbeing, remember that Paying for Senior Care can help you plan for your future long-term care needs. When you sit down with your family or health care team to plan for potential future needs, remember that Chris can help answer any burning questions. Reach out to our expert today with your concerns!