6 Ways to Be Your Own Advocate in the Doctor’s Office (Part I)

woman speaking with doctor in doctor's office

A visit to your doctor’s office can produce a wide range of emotions, such as dread, anxiety, fear, or even embarrassment. Approach your next doctor’s appointment a little differently by thinking of yourself as an advocate for your own healthcare.

Do Your Research

The first step in advocating for your own healthcare is research! If you’re looking for a doctor, research doctors online, and read reviews about each office. Don’t overlook this important step! Read the reviews for each office to understand the experiences of other patients who have chosen a particular doctor. Consider what others have to say about the doctor or the office when making your decision. Research the types of treatment available to you so that you’re able to make an informed decision. If you’ve already chosen a particular doctor, think about your symptoms or the purpose of your visit. Your doctor is a professional, but the amount of information available on the Internet means that you can be well-informed before you schedule an appointment with your doctor. Bring information on symptoms you have, or treatments you’re interested in receiving, so that your doctor can review the best options with you. In short: Take an active role in partnering with your doctor to make decisions about your own medical treatment.

Request Your Medical Records

As a part of educating yourself on your own health, request your own medical records, and learn what is in your medical files. Not only does this help you educate yourself on your medical needs, it also helps you quickly provide information to your providers, who may or may not collaborate with one another to provide the best care for you. Deciphering medical information is not always easy, so click here to learn how to read your own medical file.

Keep a Log

Whether you are managing your weight, blood pressure, sugar levels, mood, sleep, or something else entirely, keeping a log between doctor’s visits can be a valuable tool when making treatment decisions. On the spot, you may not always remember things accurately, or you might over- or under-report information based on how you’re feeling on a particular day, or you might doubt yourself when asked follow-up questions. Arming yourself with a list of blood pressure readings or the hours you’re sleeping at night, provides concrete information to support your concerns, and gives you a way to track any healthcare changes that might occur. 

Write Your Questions Down

Along with doing the research, write down questions that you have as you think of them. Keep a running note on your cell phone so you can add to it whenever something comes to mind. Keeping a note in your phone means that you’re less likely to forget to bring it with you to your next doctor’s appointment!

Arrive Early

Many medical offices won’t see you if you arrive late for your appointment. Even if you are seen, you or your doctor may feel rushed, and you may not be able to discuss everything you want to talk about. If you’re serious about your health, and you’ve put in the work to prepare for the visit to your doctor, leave a few minutes early to make sure you get to the office on time. You won’t regret it.

Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst

Hopefully, your doctor is thrilled by the information that you’ve collected, and the information that you’ve brought in, and partners with you to address your healthcare concerns. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Prepare what you would like to say in the event you feel as though you need to say more. Start small, like telling your doctor you don’t feel like your questions were answered, or that your concerns were fully addressed. In the event you’re still not satisfied, would you like to schedule an immediate follow-up appointment? Would you rather speak with a physician’s assistant or a nurse, who may have more time to spend with you? Would you like to request a referral to a specialist, or a referral to another medical professional for a second opinion? 

Ultimately, you are your biggest advocate when it comes to your health. Stay informed! For more information on healthcare topics that can help you become the best advocate you can possibly be for your own health, or the health of your family and friends, visit The Avidity Medical Design Blog.