You Are Your Best Advocate

Make sure you are receiving the best medical care. You are your best advocate.

Do you find yourself afraid to ask your doctor or nurse questions related to your health care? Perhaps, in the past, you had asked a healthcare provider a question about your health care and it wasn’t answered the right way, so it did not seem worth it to keep asking.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed or intimidated by healthcare providers such as doctors, nurses, and other medical staff. But don’t forget that you have rights as a patient. People often make mistakes, and healthcare providers are no exception. 

Do not be afraid to ask questions. If your questions don’t get answered properly, keep asking until you get a proper response. Perhaps your question needs to be directed to someone else or asked at a different time. If that is the case, you have the right to ask:

  • What is my diagnosis? 
  • What is my expected treatment plan? 
  • What are my test results? 
  • What is my prognosis? 

If you ask someone a question and they don’t know the answer, find out who can answer your questions. For example, if your test results are not explained to you, or if they are not explained clearly, ask for test results to be explained to you in a way that you can understand. 

Ask for your medical records. Some health care facilities require you to sign a release form. Some healthcare facilities will ask you to pay for your medical records. Others have online portals where you can directly access your health information, but if they do, keep in mind online portals generally do not show all of your medical information. In general, it is always a good idea to obtain your own medical records. Why? You will know exactly what is happening with your health and how your health care is being handled. If you need to go to another health care facility, you will be prepared with your documented health history. If you wish to bring a medical malpractice claim, your attorney will surely want to review your medical records to understand your claim and any harm or damages that were caused. Make your desire for more information known. If you are not obtaining clear answers, ask why. There may be legitimate reasons, but you have every right to be made aware of what those reasons are.

You will always do yourself the greatest justice by being your own strongest advocate. If you are too sick to be your own advocate, appoint someone who can be your advocate for you, such as a close friend or family member. Share your wishes and concerns with them, and have them ask the questions.

It is a good idea to decide in advance who will make your healthcare decisions for you before the time comes that you become so sick that you cannot make decisions for yourself. Let your medical team know who that person is, and ask that they document that information in your records. If you are able to keep track of the information yourself, it is important to write down important things that happen, such as doctor names, dates, and what you were told. 

Be curious about your health care. It is important to be interested and get involved. You are your best advocate.