Be a Better Patient by Becoming an Advocate for Your Health

Advocating for yourself during a health crisis or routine care is one of the best things you can do to stay healthy. Being informed, proactive, and open-minded are great ways to approach a health challenge or diagnosis. Follow this guide from Tapestry Care UK to start on the path toward improving your healthcare outcome.

Keep Detailed Medical Records

Your physician or specialist will keep medical records, but they'll also ask you to provide information. The simplest way to reconcile your medical history is by maintaining documents of your own.

Many healthcare providers offer online access to your health records, and they will often ask you to upload information, too. By making a PDF and saving files to your smartphone or tablet, you can access those records anytime (without the internet).

Having your medical records easily accessible means you can reference doctor's notes on medication dosages or refer back to prior appointment notes or treatments as needed.

Swap Out Healthier Habits

Health is about more than doctor's visits and keeping up with any necessary medications. There are many choices you can make at home or at work that will impact your overall wellness.

For example, if you live a busy lifestyle, find ways to incorporate physical activity into your routine. Try an under-desk pedal exerciser while you're seated at a desk, mixing things up with stretches every hour or so. If you live or work in a building with elevators, take the stairs for at least one or two floors (you can always work up to more!).

Try swapping out your current habits for healthier ones, and see how much better you feel in a few weeks.

Ask Questions (and Do Your Research)

Though facing a diagnosis, or a complex medical issue, can be stressful and confusing, asking questions can help. Most doctors are skilled at explaining medical concepts in a way that's easy to understand. But don't be nervous about asking questions to clarify and deepen your understanding.

Then, after your appointment, you can perform your research to dive a little deeper. Though your doctor is the expert, it may help to read about other people's experiences in similar situations.

Finding an online community is another benefit of researching your diagnosis or symptoms; chatting with others may help you feel less alone. Learning from others can also help you advocate for yourself as you learn about treatment options or other possibilities to support your health.

Bring a Loved One and Take Notes

Appointments with your doctor or specialist can sometimes feel overwhelming. If your visits involve specific instructions or information, it can help to take notes or bring a trusted person along to do it for you.

This way, you'll have a summary of each visit to refer back to. Not only that, but you'll also have moral support if the topic of the appointment is a difficult one.

One study found that most accompanying people's roles are described as advocate positions by physicians. The study also noted that the influence of the accompanying person was positive in most scenarios.

Appoint Someone to Support Your Decisions

Whether you are as healthy as ever or are managing an illness or long-term condition, having support makes all the difference. That's why it's essential to choose someone who can legally act on your behalf — according to your wishes — if you are unable to.

As the National Health Service explains, an advance decision specifically covers healthcare decisions if you are unable to express your wishes. An advance decision can list treatments you wish to refuse, including CPR or other forms of resuscitation. 

Above all, it's crucial to have someone you trust that understands your wishes. Healthcare can be complicated, so while advocating for yourself is paramount, so is having the support of people who can help with decision-making.

Receiving a life-changing diagnosis can be difficult to handle. But there are ways to advocate for yourself while managing symptoms and pursuing treatment paths. With a strong care team and loved ones who can step in when needed, caring for your health will be even easier the more proactive you are as a patient.