If you or a family member becomes ill or injured, it can naturally be a scary time. From finding the right doctor for treatment, getting appointments, dealing with healthcare companies, and other hoops to jump through, it is essential to be or have someone be your advocate to manage these and other issues. There are typically three different approaches to managing the process:
- You can take charge as your own advocate
- A friend or family member could step in, or
- A professional can take the reins.
A timely reason to ensure you are getting the best help is related to COVID-19. When so much is unknown, it is easy to forget how important it is to have a health advocate on your team, no matter who is serving that role. COVID symptoms are serious and deserve attention, especially as we learn more about how it transmits to others and the possible long-term consequences of infection. Keep in mind that advocating for yourself, or your loved one, means more than just checking the internet. Talk with a medical professional via a video appointment or phone call to fully understand the severity you’re experiencing and determine if testing is necessary. This is when a loved one or a patient advocate can be involved, so if major next moves are necessary, you can be ready for each step of the process.
Outside of something like COVID, there is a large range of health issues best aided with an advocate. Although I typically play the role of a health care provider for my patients, I have also acted as the advocate for my loved ones. Depending on your needs and wants, I recommend that you identify an advocate (or you do this yourself) to help you consider the following when dealing within our complicated healthcare system:
- What kind of doctor should you visit? What is their typical approach to care?
- What questions should you have on hand to ask that individual?
- If you feel uncomfortable with that health care provider’s recommendation, decide if a second opinion is necessary and research others in the field.
- If needed, ensure you get the name and information of who you can use to follow up for referrals or appointments, and get in touch with them promptly.
In my career, I have worked with professionals with various titles including health advocates, health navigators, patient advocates, patient navigators, health coaches or care managers. Each role is slightly different depending on the health care setting. All have one similarity—the patient’s needs are put first.
To learn more about patient advocacy, I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Adrienne Nolan-Smith, a professional in the relatively new field of holistic patient advocacy.
Learn more about how she transitioned from being a patient and caretaker to a holistic patient advocate.
Remember, your health care team and family caregivers can do their best to help when you get sick, but ultimately you make the call on what treatments you feel comfortable using. Advocates make sure the wellness journey is in motion and going in the direction YOU want.
P.S. As September is pain awareness month, we’ve made a new resource available. Click to download “Trying Mindy Body Medicine for Pain”.