How To Be Your Own Healthcare Advocate
October 28, 2016
October is Patient-Centered Care Awareness Month, organized each year by Planetree Inc. The theme for this year’s recognition is patient and family engagement. Staffers at Fauquier Health recognize that a patient and his or her family are the experts on their own care, and encourage patients to be advocates for themselves. Fauquier Health has been celebrating by highlighting departmental contributions to patient-centered culture and inviting patients to share their stories. Staff members have been distributing “I Am Listening to You” stickers to staff and “I Am An Expert About Me” stickers to patients.
Here are some tips to help patients and their families work with their healthcare providers to make sure they receive the best care:
- Be your own quality and safety officer. Ask your caregivers if they have washed their hands.
- Request a second opinion.
- When you have concerns about your care, speak up in the moment. Ask what your treatment options are. Ask about the possible side effects of your medication.
- Come to doctor’s appointments prepared. Bring a notepad with questions, your medication list and any other pertinent personal healthcare information.
- Ask your care team to help you program reminders and alerts for appointments and medications before you leave the hospital. Ask them to highlight the most important information in your discharge instructions.
- Don’t hesitate to let your care team know if you’re uncomfortable.
- Keep a written record of all your care appointments, procedures, medications and therapies. Bring it with you to all your healthcare appointments.
- If you notice a concerning change in a loved one’s condition while they are hospitalized, initiate a rapid response team.
- Enlist a loved one to be your care partner. During a hospitalization, ask that they be provided education on your aftercare needs and that they be notified of the plan for your discharge.
- When you are in the hospital, notify your care team that your loved one will be staying overnight.
- Invite a loved one to accompany you to appointments, procedures and consultations to provide support, but also an extra set of eyes and ears.
- Insist that your care partner is documented in your medical record.
- Become informed of when hospital rounds will occur so that you can make arrangements for your care partner to be present.
- Ask for care instructions to be provided to you in writing. Too many words? Ask for information in pictures and infographics, or however best you learn. Let your care team know how you best receive information.
- If your care provider uses language you don’t understand, ask them to repeat themselves using different words.
- Ask to write your own observations on the white board in the hospital room.
- When instructions are being conveyed, ask your care team to show you, not just tell you, so you are empowered to more confidently and competently care for yourself. Ask to have your care partner included in these instructions so they can be taught how you would like them to participate.
- Identify your daily routine -- the time your meds are taken, times you wake and go to sleep, preferred bathing times, and ask that these be honored.
- If you are hospitalized and are having trouble getting the rest you need to heal, ask for ear plugs, soothing music, or to have the door to your room closed. If having visitors when you are in the hospital is not beneficial to your healing process, enlist the support of your care team to set parameters for guests.
- Don’t like the food you’ve been offered while in the hospital (or in a long-term care community)? Ask what other options are available to you.
- State your feelings. They matter just as much as your physical condition.
- Engage a patient advocate if concerns are not being addressed to your satisfaction.
- Document your wishes for end-of-life care, and encourage your loved ones to document their end-of-life care preferences, as well.
- When you receive exceptional care, write a note to the highest levels of the organization letting them know. If you know them, use the names of those who made you feel cared for.
- Complete patient satisfaction surveys honestly and constructively. Take the time to answer open-ended questions.
- Ask to see your medical record. If you don’t understand what you read in your medical record, ask questions until you do.
- Ask to contribute to your medical record.
- Sign on to your medical center’s patient portal. When you read something you know is not right, ask to have it corrected.
- When your caregiver is entering information about you into the electronic medical record, ask what is being input.
Taking the Reins of Your Own Healthcare
- Take advantage of community resources such as consumer health resource libraries, health and wellness fairs and free screenings.
- Download a healthcare app to help you manage and monitor vital aspects of your personal health, such as diet, exercise, sleep patterns, blood pressure, etc.
- Be an informed healthcare consumer.