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Four Ways To Be Your Own Health Care Advocate

The demands of managing a chronic medical condition such as asthma, allergies, diabetes, epilepsy, or heart disease can feel overwhelming. Trying to keep track of every detail while simultaneously advocating for your health is time consuming and stressful. Truth be told, just scheduling doctor’s appointments, especially when newly diagnosed, is a feat in and of itself.

Learning to be your own advocate is necessary to ensure you receive the care you need. Most of us rely on our healthcare providers to guide us. And although your providers may be experts in their field, it is not realistic to expect each doctor to remember every aspect of your condition or treatment.

And yes, advocating for your health is not easy either; however it is well worth it. These four tips will help you get started:

#1 – Build a Medical Team You Trust

When you manage a chronic health condition, you’re most likely seeing different specialists for different aspects of the condition. Throughout the years, you may even change doctors based on disease progression or your health needs. It is important to assemble a team of doctors that not only thoroughly understands your condition, but also your views on how to treat it. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns. If a particular doctor is not the right fit, it may be time to move on.

You may also want one primary care physician who serves as the “Master of Ceremonies” to help manage all of your healthcare providers. This central provider would be sent your test results and visit records from other specialists, and then help you look at the big picture regarding your overall care and the next steps.

#2 - Understand How Your Insurance Works

Health insurance is complicated. Many of us have never taken the time to truly understand how our insurance works. Knowing how your insurance works will help you navigate the idiosyncrasies of the health care system with less chance of ending up with unexpected and costly medical bills.

#3 – Organize Your Medical Information

No matter which physician’s office you find yourself in, you should always be prepared with your full medical history and supporting documentation. An easy way to ensure you have your complete medical history is to download a copy of your MedicAlert Online Profile.

Basic MedicAlert membership includes this information:

• Medical Conditions

• Drug Allergies

• Implanted Devices (stent, pacemaker, spinal stimulator, etc.)

• Medications & Dosages

• Surgeries

• Patient Instructions (i.e.: MRI restrictions, No MRI, Caution with Intubation, and various other instructions)

An Advantage MedicAlert membership includes the above, plus:

• Up to four (4) emergency contacts. After information is given to first responders and/or a hospital, we reach out to emergency contacts to let them know something happened and to which hospital the member has been taken if needed

An Advantage Plus MedicAlert membership includes all of the above, plus:

• Up to four (4) physicians.

• The ability to store documents on file – records such as treatment protocol for a rare disease, an extensive allergy list, copies of implanted device cards, and a copy of DNR/POLST/MOST documents (for DNR engravings).

Having vital medical information in front of you can be critical to ensuring the best possible care and outcome for your condition. It can help your healthcare providers make informed decisions on everything from ordering further tests, prescribing new medication, or deciding on surgery. You can learn more about our membership plans here.

#4 – Ask Questions

If you don’t understand something, ask. Sometimes, doctor-speak can be a strange language that we don’t always understand. Doctors are under enormous pressure but if you ask questions, they will take the time to answer you. Preparing a list of questions before you go to the doctor’s visit will help. This will organize your thoughts, optimize the doctor’s time, and ensure that you get the answers to your questions.

As you establish your team of reputable physicians, learn to communicate more effectively, and take an active role in your health, you’ll notice that you are more comfortable speaking with your doctors, asking questions and providing input about your care. In addition, as you educate yourself about your condition, your uncertainty will dissipate. It is important to remember that you are advocating for your health and for your peace of mind as well.