Be Your Own Patient Health Advocate

Learning to become our own patient health advocate is a sound strategy for taking control of our whole health. Be Your Own Patient Health Advocate

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc., PhD.

With the many responsibilities and stresses of daily life, it is easy to lose sight of maintaining our well-being. Yet, as the old saying goes, our health is the greatest form of wealth. Learning to become our own patient health advocate is a sound strategy for taking control of our whole health. Self-advocacy allows the individual to assume responsibility for his or her healthcare choices and outcomes. This post will explore the role of a patient health advocate, as well as the value of taking ownership of one’s health care and provide some practical steps to get started.

First, what is a patient health advocate? According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “A health advocate can be a spouse, relative, friend, or caregiver that you trust.” It can also be an individual who takes an active role in their health care by proactively identifying needs/concerns, obtaining necessary information, and making informed choices. They actively participate in their care with their healthcare providers. While family members, friends, and trained professionals can all serve as effective advocates, there is no substitute for the innate knowledge we possess of our own health conditions. Coupled with access to evidence-based information, we can learn to become our own patient health advocate!

This can lead to:

  • Empowerment: Taking charge of our health can be an empowering experience, giving us a sense of confidence and control of our well-being and quality of life.
  • Improved Health Outcomes: Health outcomes may be improved by patient knowledge and participation. Exercising our rights as patients to ask questions and receive answers from our healthcare providers helps us, along with our own research, to make educated choices about our care and treatment.
  • Cost Savings: Being our own patient health advocate can help reduce healthcare costs by ensuring we receive the necessary treatment, informed by evidence-based research and intuitive knowledge of our health condition(s).
  • Better Communication: Participating with our healthcare provider in a spirit of cooperation can lead to clearer communication, which in turn can result in improved outcomes in our health goals.

Below are some simple, practical steps we can take to begin the process of becoming our own patient health advocate:

  • Educate Yourself: We can learn about our health condition by researching online, reading books or articles, or attending educational seminars, whether virtually or in person.
  • Ask Questions: Asking our healthcare provider questions regarding diagnosis, treatment options, etc. can help inform our healthcare choices as well as foster a cooperative, peer centered client – provider relationship.
  • Communicate Effectively: Be clear and concise when communicating with healthcare providers. Write down any questions or concerns ahead of time and bring them to appointments.
  • Keep Accurate Records: Keep track of all health information, including medical history, test results, and medications in order to stay organized and informed.
  • Get a Second Opinion: If unsure about a diagnosis or treatment plan, consider getting a second opinion from another healthcare provider.
  • Advocate for Yourself: Be your own advocate by speaking up for your needs and concerns. If you feel your healthcare provider isn’t listening to you, don’t be afraid to seek another provider who will.
  • Take Responsibility: Take responsibility for your health by making healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep.

In order to achieve sustainable well-being and quality of life, we must become our own health experts. This can lead to improved outcomes, reduced care costs, and better relationships with healthcare providers. Becoming our own patient health advocate is the best investment we can make in our health.