Your Value in Your Own Health and Care

Jan 25, 2017 by

You can have me read this article to you instead of reading it yourself…

Or you can read it the old-fashioned way below…

We live in a culture of “me, me, me” and “treat yo’self”, and here I am, writing about how to ensure that you don’t forget the value of ‘me’ to your healthcare experience.  What have I become?

Oh well.  Regardless of whether we could all stand to take a little bit of ‘me’ out of many other things in our worlds, for 99% of us, we desperately need to put a lot more of ‘me’ into our healthcare experience.

What Does That Even Mean?

One of the most often forgotten components of healthcare is you, the patient.  The doctor forgets, the nurse forgets, and, most importantly, you forget.  You are the most important piece of the puzzle and yet the ways that you can bring value to the table are rarely discussed or recognized.

There are a number of misconceptions and assumptions that we make about our healthcare system that sets it up to fail miserably for us.  Recognizing that these false expectations exist allows us to see the gaps in the system.

But seeing gaps hardly does any good without a way to plug them.  Guess what?  You happen to be the glue that can seal a huge number of those holes.

Recognizing Your Value for Your Health

Our assumptions regarding our doctors and our clinics aren’t the only ones that we are making.  We also make a number of assumptions about our very own role.  It turns out that many people assume they play little to no role in their own care, and that they add no value.  If you walk away from my website forever with no other takeaways, please remember that this is 100% false.  You are one of the most valuable components to your care!

Before we can address our wrong assumptions, we must first recognize what they are.  Here are just a few examples…

  • We assume that doctors only want to hear specific things and nothing more.
    Whether or not this is true, it is not appropriate.  If a doctor is looking at you as “Gastroparesis Case #25”, you need to remind him that you are a person with a life and a past attached to you. That life and that past can have an enormous impact on what your best options are.
  • We assume that doctors do not want us to ask questions.
    While doctors may initially seem perturbed or frustrated by questions, the fact of the matter is that they need you to ask questions.  They want their ideas to work, and in order for that to happen, they need you to understand how to make them work.
  • We assume that we have nothing valuable to add.
    The fact is, your doctor has many other patients and many other concerns.  He can’t always remember your entire medical history or something that you talked about at the last visit.  You are the only true source of this information and thus you always have something valuable to add.
  • We understand that our doctors are busy and don’t want to take any extra time.
    Actually, the most common reason that your doctor was 1-2 hours late to your appointment is because other patients were asking questions during their appointments.  The truth is, you paid for the time.  You also need the time.  So claim it.
  • We stick with the doctor we were referred to because he’s supposed to be the best.
    This is a mistake that is very easy to make, because we want to make sure that we are getting the best care that we can and have access to the best options.  However, if the specialist you see is not listening to your concerns or your needs and doesn’t have time to evaluate your case, you might not be receiving that best care after all.  Finding a doctor that will listen to you and help you identify your options and how you can get them will be far more valuable in the long run.

Can you think of more ways that you might be selling yourself short at the doctor or the hospital?  I know that I can.  And the more I think about it, the more examples I come up with.

Seeing Where It Happens Most

I have spent the past 16 years as an employee in a health care system.  For the past 9 of those, I have been intimately involved with the care of patients from the perspective of a healthcare provider.  Time and time again I see people defer to the doctor, even when they have questions and concerns written all over their faces.  I have heard people say that they were worried about “this” issue, but if the doctor didn’t mention it, then it must not be a concern.

For some reason, we have a habit of removing ourselves from the equation at the point in our lives when we are the most important factor – our health.  We always have value to add to our own health management.  Whether at the lab, the hospital, or the doctor’s office, we are the voice for our own care.  And we are very likely to be the holder of missing information or a vital piece of knowledge that could lead to a different decision, treatment, or test.

There are many, many ways in which we can take a role in our own care.  In fact, as you begin to become involved and speak up, you will be filled with additional ideas for ways that you can participate in your own health management.  But first you have to recognize and eliminate the wrong assumptions before you can start down a path of self-advocacy.

You are, after all, the person most invested in your own care.

We discuss what self-advocacy means here.  Or, if just thinking about these things is making your gut react, find a new topic to learn about here.

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