Be Your Own Health Advocate
Change from passive patient to an active advocate for your own health care.
C: Communicate Concerns and Desires
Communication means asserting yourself if you have a problem with the care
you're getting, or if there's an issue you want your doctor to consider.
Your out-of-pocket costs, for example, may be a concern. Nearly 46 million
Americans lack health insurance, and even those who are insured end up paying
about one-third of what they spend on health care out-of-pocket. Nevertheless,
many are shy about bringing up financial concerns with a doctor.
"There are many barriers that prevent patients from raising
concerns," says G. Caleb Alexander, MD, an assistant professor of medicine
at the University of Chicago. Some are embarrassed, he says, while others don't
bring it up because they think there's nothing doctors can do, or that they
don't have enough time to talk about it. What's more, some people fear they
will get substandard care if they mention money is an object.
"The fact of the matter is that in almost all cases physicians have good
options available to assist patients who are burdened by their out-of-pocket
costs," Alexander says.
For example: the doctor may know about financial assistance programs or
other resources to help you pay your bill. Or the doctor may be able to help by
discounting the fee for the office visit, or by sending you home with free
prescription drug samples. You might also find out that a less expensive
treatment option could potentially work just as well as a newer and pricier
How to Pick Your Health Care Team
An actively involved patient knows what he or she expects from a doctor.
Everyone should expect to be taken seriously and treated with respect, Gruman
says. Accept nothing less.
Beyond that, people's expectations vary greatly. The kind of relationship
you want to have with a doctor may depend not only on your personal
preferences, but also the reason why you need medical care.
"If you're just trying out a new primary care doctor, that's a very
different kind of relationship-building experience than if you were just
referred to an oncologist because you have a very bad case of pancreatic cancer," Gruman says.