Speak for Yourself! Self-Advocacy in Health Care

patient safety building blocksThe health care system can be overwhelming to navigate and often exhausting. The diagnosis process can be physically and emotionally stressful, while waiting for results can be frustrating and anxiety-provoking. You should be empowered by your hospital to advocate for yourself and family when discussing care plans. Given the impact diagnostic testing has on your physical and psychological well-being, it’s critical you’re fully informed about the risks and benefits about each test you need. Understanding each test and its risks is essential to the diagnostic process. In order to consent to proposed diagnostic screenings and prescribed forms of treatment, you need extensive information regarding treatment options.

As a patient, you have the right to question your provider’s choices regarding testing and treatment for your medical conditions. However, it’s the responsibility of every caregiver to catch potential discrepancies in orders or treatment plans. For example, I recently had a spine X-ray ordered by my primary care doctor, but my back pain originated from the lower back region. The X-ray technician explained that the scan my doctor ordered wouldn’t capture the focal point of my pain, and wanted to call her to ensure she received an order for the appropriate scan.

The implications of incorrect or unnecessary test administration can lead to financial and emotional stress and delays in diagnosis. Caregivers who answer your questions and validate your concerns about testing and treatment allow you to feel comfortable speaking up for yourself, and confident in your choices.

It’s critical you feel empowered to ask questions about your health care, and hospitals need to support you as you navigate care in a sometimes complex system. During Patient Safety Week, we must acknowledge that at UMass Memorial Health Care, we serve a diverse community, and our responsibility is to create pathways that allow each patient access to interpreter services, community health workers, patient advocates, social workers and others who assist patients as they navigate care.

Join the conversation. Is there a time a caregiver made you feel validated when you had concerns about your care plan? We’d love to hear about your experiences with your caregivers, and how you used self-advocacy to understand your medical care plan that was being implemented.

Guest Blogger: Victoriahope McAuliffe, Patient and Family Advisory Council, UMass Memorial Health Care

  1 comment for “Speak for Yourself! Self-Advocacy in Health Care

  1. Lora N.
    March 9, 2020 at 10:39 am

    I feel that as health care providers WE need to ensure that patients understand what is being explained to them. We tend to speak ‘our’ language and may forget that the patient is not familiar with medical terminology. I always encourage patients to call and speak to me if they have any concerns. The effort on my part will turn into a better outcome for the patient.

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