Happy New Year! Among our list of new year's resolutions, this one is going on top: Becoming more empowered patients. In today's healthcare settings, the patient can and should play a critical role in healing, if she or he is informed, assertive, and supported.
At no other time in history has the patient had access to the amount of information about illness, had the legal and societal (and financial) rights to determine healthcare choices, and access to widespread availability of cutting edge technology and expert care. This January you will find the steps you can take to become more empowered, either as a patient yourself, or as a patient advocate.
The Empowered Patient An empowered patient or patient advocate helps the healing process both through information and action. Here is the first step towards becoming empowered!
Step 1:Prepare To Be Powerful!
There is probably nothing more scary than speaking up. When we feel intimidated, rushed, or confused, it can be hard to ask questions let alone think straight. How many times have we left a meeting or consultation, only to think of a question we needed answered after the fact? The best way to work under these stressful conditions is to be prepared.
One way you can do this is through visualization: Even if it's just on the drive in to the appointment, imagine yourself in the room, calm and confident. Play through some conversations in your mind in which you ask questions, or ask the doctor to repeat instructions. Practice some polite phrases out loud:
- "Doctor, I have just a few more questions before you leave."
- "That was a lot of information. Please repeat what you just said."
- "I need to repeat back what I understood to make sure it is correct."
- "I'm having a hard time understanding my options. Can you please explain them in a different way?"
- "Last time I was here, you said my test results would be available. How can I get a copy?"
Another tactic that increases your confidence you can practice in the waiting room. Just taking these poses for about 2 minutes has been proven to improve confidence and assertive behavior!
- Stand with your hands on your hips, with your legs slightly open. ("Wonder Woman")
- Sit with your arm draped across the chair next to you, with your legs relaxed and slightly open. ("Movie Date")
- Lean back in your chair with your arms behind your back, with one leg crossed ankle-to-knee. ("Sun Bather")
Now that you have prepared to be powerful, let's get ready to listen, learn, and record. Tune in next week for Step 2: Research!
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in January 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.