The need for advocacy in our medical care is something that each of us should be acutely interested in pursuing. Why? When big decisions come along in your life do you leave these options to chance or take them seriously, so you can achieve the best outcome? If that is how we behave with other important decisions then we need to give the same diligence to an important topic that can affect whether you live or die? That may seem dramatic, but I'll explain why this hits so close to home.
Recently I came across some information concerning some friends in another part of the country that have had to endure a loss in their family because of the lack of advocacy. The person involved was experiencing pain in a part of their body, and went to their provider to check in to see if anything was wrong. At that time of the appointment an exam was completed, but no testing was done to rule out the suspected issue. As this person returned home their systems continued to exacerbate to the point of being incapacitated which eventually resulted in their death. When there was a discussion following this tragedy it was apparent to me this person's family members didn't understand the complexity of the issues, or presume their had been any neglect in the care given. I'm not a litigious person by any means, but if I could explain the situation in greater detail you would see the glaring oversight in care that occurred that could have prevented this tragedy.
That is why it's so important to advocate for yourself and others that you love. Here are 4 points in your care where advocacy is vital to a successful outcome:
- Understanding the issue - I don't know about you, but I take my car to a mechanic when things go wrong because I don't possess the knowledge to keep it running. Unless your a medical professional, you should follow the same process when facing a new diagnosis. It's imperative that you fully understand the challenge, and what that means to you and those who love you. If you're sitting in the appointment and the medical jargon is overwhelming then it's important to reach out for professional help.
- Considering the Options - Once the diagnosis or treatment has been discussed you'll need to consider your options. This is when many people fall into trouble because they don't see the importance of advocacy. How many times have you taken what your provider has said at face value? I'm not saying to not trust the medical professionals involved in your car, but do the same research you would if you were buying a car. Just like consumer reports is to buying a car, a second opinion should be required when considering any major medical decision. An advocate can help conduct the research because they understand what information may be necessary, and where it is located. They also know how to speak with other medical professionals to get the information or coordination necessary to facilitate your care.
- Making the decision - Making an important medical decision can be challenging when you don't feel prepared or confident. In this case you can find an independent advocate that has experience with using the shared decision making process. "An approach where clinicians and patients communicate together using the best available evidence when faced with the task of making decisions, where patients are supported to deliberate about the possible attributes and consequences of options, to arrive at informed preferences in making a determination about the best action and which respects patient autonomy, where this is desired, ethical and legal." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shared_decision-making). This process ensures that an objective review is completed, and it's focused on your best interest in the situation which significantly increases the possibility of a positive outcome for you.
- Ongoing support and coordination - Some of the greatest challenges in healthcare these days occur when each of us are dealing with multiple entities to coordinate our care. The truth is that you're not the only patient for very busy people with the best intentions, and because there's so many competing priorities the ball can get dropped. Also, as changes continue to occur in the coverage we require for our care there is a need to understand the expenditures we may have to pay. Having someone that can sift through these intricacies to help with ensuring you receive both timely and appropriate services can be very valuable to your health and pocket book.
I don't want you to think that I'm negative about our health system by any means, but I've worked professionally for many years supporting others and my own family. Therefore, I wanted to provide a realistic insight on how I believe you can advocate for yourself. Through personal advocacy you can ensure you're the recipient of quality care as you navigate the maze we call "healthcare". Please feel free to reach out to me or comment on this blog. Take care. Dave