Several friends have told me about health issues lately and unfortunately I’m not shocked at the poor care they seem to be receiving. So, I wanted to write about standing up for yourself when it comes to your health.
I have found that you absolutely must be your own advocate when it comes to your health. Don’t feel like you are being difficult. You’re not — you’re just being smart.
I think we’re forced into thinking that we can’t shop around for doctors, we can’t question diagnoses and that we can’t appeal an insurance decision. YES, we should do all of these things!
It seems crazy to me that if we get a meal that we don’t like at a restaurant, we don’t mind complaining, however if there’s a problem with our doctor or our insurance, we just accept it.
After going through two major health crises all before 35 years old, I have learned a few things. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a problem big or small, you really have to stand up for yourself to take control of your own health.
- If you don’t have the best doctor, just keep looking. If you feel like you’re not getting the answers you need and you’ve tried talking to the doctor about your concerns, find a new doctor. That’s right. Fire your doctor. After our gestational surrogate was pregnant with our twins, she first went to her regular OB. I didn’t like how they treated me, the mother, on the other side of the state. They wouldn’t budge when I asked to have more frequent ultrasounds because the first trimester was traumatic for me having lost five pregnancies. They also wouldn’t allow me to be on the phone with her at appointments to listen in. We got a referral to see a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist, and after we all saw him for the first time, we fell in love with him because he was extremely smart, personable and we just clicked. So, we fired the other doctor. What a 1000% difference between the two doctors. Don’t settle. I have had the absolute crummiest doctors and the absolute best.
- Find a specialist. If you have anything other than a cold, you might want to find a specialist. As you might surmise, I haven’t had great experiences with primary care doctors. I’m sure there are good ones out there though. If you do have a specific problem, don’t you want the best person on the job with lots of specific experience in that area? I certainly do. If you need to see a specialist, ask for recommendations from friends or family. Also beware of doctors that always have the same solution for every problem. They only have one or two tools in their own skill-set, and that will be their recommendation, even if it’s not the best sometimes. Again, if you don’t feel good about any doctor, keep looking. (See next one…)
- Second opinion. If you are nervous or unsure about a diagnosis, get a second opinion. When I was told I needed surgery to break my pelvis in three places, you better believe I got more opinions — three more in fact! And, I had to leave the state to see some of the doctors. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many peri-acetabular osteotomy surgeons in the U.S.
- Research. Do research on the doctors. Do research on your problem, diagnosis or treatment. Educate yourself so that you can ask better questions. Know what tests to ask for.
- List of Questions. Always take a list of questions with you to the doctor. Otherwise, you’ll forget them or get too nervous. I’m famous for showing up with long lists.
- Insurance Appeals. If you get denied by insurance, appeal! Make sure to make a good case and get supporting evidence from your doctors. Read one of my posts about this.
- Give feedback. If you are treated poorly, let the clinic or hospital know. One time I ended up in the ER after having miscarried and was treated very poorly. I let them know about it and they were appreciative that I let them know and appalled at how I was treated. They responded to me immediately. Read more.
- Cell Phone. Make sure to give doctors your cell phone number, so that when they call with results, you might actually get the call instead of the voice mail at home. Nothing is worse than waiting for results and getting a voice mail on a Friday afternoon. Then, you can’t get back in touch and have to sweat it out over the weekend worrying.
- Making Appointments. When you need to be seen about something and they make the appointment for 3 months from now, explain that you need to be seen sooner. Ask to speak to an office manager. You don’t have to accept every little thing they tell you. For “well” visits or non serious visits, sure, waiting 3 months is fine. For other issues, it’s not at all. I had to deal with this getting appointments for my hip pain. Also, I’ll never forget that after my 5th miscarriage, I called the doctor’s office to be seen. I knew the routine and knew I had to be checked out. I also was having more problems than usual, but when I called they said they could see me in 4 days! 4 days?!?! I could bleed out by then. Read my blog post about this situation.