The most important thing to remember when faced with a health crisis is to be an active part of your healthcare team. All decisions must be made WITH you not FOR you! You must educate yourself about your illness and all your treatment options. By being an active member of your healthcare team, you are sure to see results and improve. Begin by researching your illness so that you begin to understand what is wrong with you. One excellent site to begin is www.nih.gov (National Institute of Health). That site will also link to other equally helpful sites. Remember that there is no one treatment that is right or that works for everyone. Every person is different and unique with equally different and unique needs, beliefs, cultures and spiritual values.
There are several important factors to be considered when being a healthcare or patient advocate for yourself. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it can save your life! Just as you may shop around to buy a house or a car, use that same spirit of inquiry to find your own medical care. Ask questions and investigate! Always, always, always seek out a second or even a third opinion. A good doctor or healthcare provider will welcome your research. Do your research carefully and choose your doctors ad healthcare providers wisely. There are many people who love and care about you. You are very important to many, many people. Keep that in mind, when you think you do not want to do all the work involved.
Also, keep in mind that doctors and healthcare providers are human, and humans make mistakes. Do a background search on the hospital as well as the physicians you choose. You can contact your state's Board of Medicine/Medical Examiners for information on the physician at www.fsmb.org/directory_smb.html. You can compare the quality ratings of the hospitals at www.ConsumerHealthRatings.com as well at www.HealthGrades.com, which are both independent sites. I recommend, if possible, to choose a hospital that specializes in the care of whatever your particular condition is.
A federal regulatory body that governs all healthcare institutions which accepts federal funds--The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organization (JCAHO)--along with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services started a national campaign to help
patients advocate for themselves and prevent medical errors: The Speak Up Initiative.
The Speak Up program encourages people to: 1. Speak up if your have questions or concerns. If you still don’t understand, ask again. It’s your body, and you have a right to know. 2. Pay attention to the care you get. Always make sure you’re getting the right treatments and medicines by the correct healthcare professionals. Don’t assume anything. 3. Educate yourself about your illness. Learn about the medical tests you get. Learn your treatment options and ask about your treatment plan. 4. Ask a trusted family member or friend to be your Advocate (advisor or supporter). 5. Know what medicines you take and why you take them. Medication errors are the most common healthcare mistakes. (A wonderful resource to learn about your meds is www.rxlist.com. Learn this site and tell others). 6. Use a hospital, clinic, surgery center or other healthcare institution that has met federal guidelines. Ask about their Joint Commission rating on their quality standards. 7. Participate in all decisions about your treatment. You are the center of your healthcare team!
Remember, it is your right to refuse treatment until you understand what is happening.
Watch for the simple things like hand washing. All healthcare workers must wash their hands before working with you. Stethoscopes should be washed as well. Ask your nurse to identify all medications before you take them. Have your doctor clearly mark the site of your upcoming surgery. This is really important as mistakes are made every day. When you have a healthcare issue, your illness is too complex or the system is too confusing make sure you have someone who can help you through all the confusion.
Remember to protect your rights and safety, educate yourself and advocate for yourself with all your medical providers. I wish you the best of health and will assist you in any way I can in your healthcare journey.
Be safe….ask questions!