1/23/2018 by Editor Share Your Story

Be Your Own Advocate


As a patient, you may not have a close family member or friend who is available or able to help you navigate through the health care system, or the resources to hire someone. Whether you’re dealing with an initial diagnosis, a recurrence or a chronic condition, there are resources and steps to help you be your own advocate for yourself. Making complex decisions in the midst of trying to recover or heal is a challenge, but you know yourself best and you can get the best from your care team.

Be Prepared

Stay organized by keeping a binder for bills, paperwork and receipts. Include:

  • Important contact names and numbers, including caregivers
  • Insurance information
  • Living wills and health care directives
  • Lists of medications and dosages including supplements or other
    over-the-counter products you take routinely
  • Medical history (tests, procedures, treatments) including medical history
  • Contact information for your health care team
  • Diary of dates when you started noticing symptoms that led you to seek care

At the Doctor’s Office

Make a list of the most important questions you want to cover with your doctor or other care team members. Don’t wait until the end of the visit to bring up these questions — you want to have adequate time to discuss your concerns. If you have access to a patient portal, see if you’re able to email a list of questions in advance of your next appointment. This may help your care team be better prepared to help you.

The National Institutes of Health has a wealth of information to help you get the most out of your doctor visits. They advise you to:

  • Bring someone with you to be an extra set of eyes and ears
  • Take notes about what the doctor says, or ask a friend or family member to
    take notes for you.
  • Learn how to access your medical records, so you can keep track of test results, diagnoses, treatments plans, and medications and prepare for your next appointment.
  • Ask for the doctor’s contact information and their preferred method of communication.
  • Remember that nurses and pharmacists are also good sources of information.

Tell your doctor about how your condition is affecting you both physically and emotionally. Be prepared to talk about how your condition is impacting your daily life, and if it is affecting your relationships or preventing you from achieving your goals.

Don’t be embarrassed to bring up financial issues related to your care. Some patients may think their doctor can’t do anything about costs, or they may not get the best care if they bring up money issues. Your doctor may be able to connect you with a financial assistance program or other resources. He or she may offer to discount their fee, or provide you with free prescription drug samples.


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