One of the best ways to advocate for yourself during medical appointments is to build an excellent partnership with your care team. Doctor visits can bring anxiety but remember, your provider is your ally. Taking steps to establish a good relationship can help create better understanding, reduce errors and improve your satisfaction with your care.
Prioritize Your Concerns
Before you see your doctor, think about all the topics that concern you. It’s a good idea to make a list to take to office visits if you can. You might not have time to discuss everything, so prioritize the top two things you want to discuss.
If you’re in the hospital, consider what you’re most concerned about that day — a new symptom, pain control, medication, etc. You might have different concerns each day. You or a visitor can write them on the room’s whiteboard or on a piece of paper. Share them with the clinician when they arrive.
It’s hard not knowing exactly when your clinician will visit or exactly how long you’ll wait. Their schedule is determined by the needs of their patients, so they may run a bit behind to make sure each one’s needs are met. This can be frustrating, but it can help to remember that your provider is being thorough and attentive to other patients.
Confirm Your Understanding
Toward the end of the meeting, you and any family members present should say aloud to the clinician what you’ve understood during your time together. Go over the assessment of your health condition and the treatment recommendations. The clinician can agree or make a correction. That way you all leave on the same page, and you know what to do when you return home.
How to Handle Complaints and Compliments
In all relationships, misunderstandings can occur, and a person can feel unheard or disrespected. If you have a complaint in a clinical situation, your doctor will want to know. Try to calmly describe the issue or behavior that distressed you and ask if they understand what you’re saying. If there’s something specific you want or need, it’s okay to ask for it.
Positive feedback is also welcome when you’ve had a really good experience with your provider. It’s completely appropriate to thank them if you want to. You can also give suggestions and compliments through our website.
Using My Health Online
My Health Online is our online patient portal. You can use it to ask your care team simple questions or offer brief updates. Generally, you’ll receive a reply within a couple of days. Messaging your providers through My Health Online should never be used for emergencies. If you need to have a lengthier conversation or give a lot of details, please schedule an appointment so your care team can address your concerns.
Prepare for Discharge
When you’ve been in the hospital, you’ll have to go through a process called discharge before you can go home. Discharge can be a hectic time with several clinicians visiting and providing lots of instructions. This is your best opportunity to learn how to best care for yourself and have a smooth recovery once you’re home. Take the time you need with your care team to ask questions and make sure you fully understand all of their instructions. Feel free to take notes. Also, learn who to contact if you have questions after you’ve left the hospital and write down how to reach them.