Medical Advocacy – It Could Save a Life

Speaking up for yourself in the healthcare system is not always easy.  But it is your body after all, so why is speaking up so hard?  “I don’t want to question the doctor.” “I assumed my doctors all talked to each other.” “The pharmacy gave me the medication, so I didn’t worry.” “I wanted to ask, but I felt intimidated.” “The hospital has all my records from last time.”  These thoughts and feelings are all too common and actually may not only prevent you from getting the best care possible under the law, but sometimes will even contribute to harmful medical errors.  Did you know there has been a national  “Speak-Up” healthcare campaign in place since 2002? Click here for a related video

The Institute of Medicine’s report in 2001, Crossing the Quality Chasm, estimated that as many as1,000,000 excess injuries and 98,000 preventable deaths occur in hospitals in the United States due to medical errors.  This is astounding and the tip of the iceberg when you consider the potential for similar errors in the community healthcare systems.  Medication errors, treatment mistakes and missed diagnoses account for a large portion of injuries and deaths.

How can you prevent such tragedies for happening to you?  Medical Advocacy is a well-known concept in the healthcare system.  The problem is, it is not as well-known outside of healthcare where it really matters.  Medical Advocacy is the ability to expect, get, support and foster receiving the safest and best possible healthcare when facing illness. For some of us, not only are we our own medical advocate, but we are also a medical advocate for a loved one.  So, how does someone be a medical advocate?  BY LEARNING HOW!

Our law firm offers a course to teach people how to be a medical advocate and we encourage you to attend.  Learning how to correctly function in this role is paramount.  Do you have all of the legal instruments in place for your agents if you cannot be your own advocate?  Recognize the importance of the health history and how critical it is — healthcare providers rely heavily on what they are told.  Learn how to track it, document it and then report it.  You need to learn how to talk to healthcare providers using a calm, polite and firm attitude.  Knowing how to push for answers politely and how to repeat back what you think you heard helps close the communication loop.  Write down what you are told at healthcare visits.  Research your health conditions so you can ask important questions.  Make it a practice to get copies of medical records promptly and organize in a notebook by healthcare provider so that you can take your records with you to all of your healthcare visits.

Taking an active role in healthcare by being your own advocate or an advocate for a loved one means becoming an active, involved and informed participant on the health care team.  Doing so prevents errors and facilitates receiving the best possible healthcare for the best possible outcome.