A National Institute of Health survey found patients who were most satisfied with their healthcare were those engaged in self-advocacy. This included a person becoming knowledgeable about their injury and health care needs; and being persistent about speaking up for those needs. The NIH also explains those who felt better about their experience practiced communication skills, were organized, talked to peer mentors and kept a positive attitude.
Research shows practicing self-advocacy, or when a family member actively advocates on the behalf of a loved one, reduces medical errors in hospital settings, doctors’ offices or at the pharmacy. It is important as the World Health Organization reports “an estimated 10% of patients in high-income countries are harmed while receiving hospital care.” Also, according to a 2021 report in StatPearls, “medical errors result in about 100,000 deaths in hospitals and clinics annually.”
Most errors are related to diagnoses, prescriptions and use of medicines; and misdiagnoses means delayed treatment and taking the wrong medicines. To ensure the best care you need to be honest with your healthcare provider. This includes providing an account of your symptoms and a list of current prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbs, supplements and vitamins you take. Be sure to let them know if you have any drug allergies and provide as complete a medical history as you can including your personal medical record as well as that of your family’s. In addition, let your medical team know if you are a smoker and the amount of alcohol you consume.
Additionally, remember the time you spend with your doctor is short, so prepare beforehand the things you wish to discuss. The Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute Center for Diagnostic Excellence at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore has a QuestionBuilder app available by AHRQ at Google Play or the Apple store to guide you in questions you should ask.
Experts also say to remember you and your doctor are a team. Being your own health advocate or that of a loved one means helping them follow the medical advice recommended by the doctor regarding diet, rest, exercise, smoking, alcohol use and taking medications as prescribed.
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