The Power of Your Voice: How Self-Advocacy Can Improve Your Health Care
Do you find yourself checking off your annual doctor’s visit and not getting much out of it?
Taking care of your health and well-being is important — not only for the benefit it brings us individually but also because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). How do we steward this responsibility and make sure we receive the best health care possible when we see a provider?
To start, it is essential to change your mindset from being a passive participant in the health care system to being a dialed-in expert on a very important subject — you.
Here are three simple ways to practice self-advocacy in health care.
1. Prepare for the Appointment
Get references from friends, family, co-workers or any person you trust for reliable physicians.
Search for physicians recommended by others online to find their ratings.
Verify that the physician is in-network for your specific insurance plan.
Take the time to research — using reliable sources — and understand your health condition or symptoms.
Learn about available treatment options and their possible side effects.
Keep a log of questions, concerns and important facts about your health and take this with you to the doctor’s appointment.
When you make the appointment, complete any paperwork beforehand. Many offices have forms available online or can mail the paperwork to you ahead of time so you can bring the completed forms to the appointment.
Don’t forget that Teladoc® is an option for non-emergency medical care and is available to GuideStone health plan members* 24/7 at no cost.
Becoming as educated as possible before your appointment will empower you to have a more meaningful conversation with your physician or specialist, leading to making more informed decisions about your health care.
2. Communicate Effectively
After you and the doctor exchange greetings, share about your primary health concerns.
Be clear and concise when expressing yourself.
Do not hesitate to ask questions about anything you do not understand. In fact, ask the doctor to explain anything unclear in non-medical terms.
Ask questions about any prescriptions given during the appointment. Make sure you understand why it was prescribed and the dosage or frequency that you should follow.
Find out if your prescription is generic or brand name, how long you should take it, and if it interferes with any other current medications — prescription or over-the-counter. You can also talk with the pharmacist at your preferred pharmacy.
Feel free to seek clarity on procedure recommendations and to receive second and third opinions from other providers. Why is this necessary? What will this procedure address or fix? What are the drawbacks of not having the procedure?
Communicating effectively is key to a smooth health care journey. Resist downplaying symptoms to appear strong. This is the time to be completely truthful so that the medical team can make informed decisions about how to proceed.
3. Build Support and Persistence
Ask someone you trust to come to the appointment with you to help self-advocate, communicate your concerns and take notes to review later.
Consider joining patient advocacy organizations (e.g., the National Patient Advocate Foundation, American Cancer Society, or ALS Association) and look for local support groups. Doing so will connect you to their educational resources, support networks, and others facing the same issues as you.
Maintain organized records of your medical history. You have the right to have copies of your medical files — with your history, test results and medications. Having this will help you keep track of all pertinent information and help ensure continuity of care if you have multiple doctors or specialists. Include the names of your doctor and the nursing staff that you interact with whenever you visit.
Take care of your spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health. Navigating insurance issues, health care system challenges, and scheduling obstacles with your health providers can be draining.
Prioritize stewarding your health and well-being in every age and stage of life. Check out our Wellness Roadmap for inspiration and tips.
Develop a support system of family and friends that will lift you up, engage in activities that bring you joy and consider counseling and support groups to help you manage this journey.
Build a supportive health care team. Find providers that listen to you, respect you and involve you in conversations about your health, instead of issuing orders or having a poor bedside manner. Most importantly, do not ever give up on your health or on being heard and seen by good physicians.
Creating a support system for yourself through trusted family or friends, a solid medical team and documented resources can make all the difference in the stewardship and longevity of your health.
At GuideStone®, we seek to guide, advocate and provide for our ministry partners and members. As part of that commitment, our health plans offer built-in programs that help our members navigate their health journey.
For example, churches with as few as two employees can access personal care coordinators — a feature typically only available to large groups at other organizations besides GuideStone. These personal care coordinators help our members find in-network providers, manage claims and answer questions.
GuideStone members also have access to other Wellness Tools that help them take control of their health, such as:
We hope that these tips and programs will help increase your confidence in advocating for your health. Remember that your voice matters, and your active and informed involvement can make a significant difference in your experiences in navigating the health care system.