Thursday, July 14, 2016

Five Steps to Better Healthcare

Do you know how to get the best healthcare to meet your family’s needs? As the healthcare system gets more complicated, appointments with your doctor get shorter, and costs continue to rise, getting individualized, evidence-based care is a challenge. Personal healthcare advocacy skills are techniques to get information and take action so you can make standardized care a better fit for your and your family. They include understanding some basics about how the modern healthcare system works, knowing what actions you can take to increase your chances of getting the care that’s best for you, knowing what questions to ask and how to make informed decisions, and knowing your rights as a patient. With some personal advocacy skills under your belt, you can learn get the most out your healthcare. Here are five things you can do that can help you get better care.

1. Understand the business of healthcare
Healthcare in America is a business. There is a strong incentive for profit. You need to understand how doctors and facilities make money and get paid, or you may end up paying for tests and procedures that aren’t medically necessary. You need to be an informed consumer, like you’d be if you were buying any other big-ticket consumer item.

2. Get clear on your values, needs, and desires
You are the expert on you. Your input is important, so you need to be clear on how much control you want over decision-making, what your care philosophy is, what your medical, physical, emotional, and practical needs are, and what you want and expect while being a patient. Even great doctors need your input. They can’t know everything about you, so it’s up to you to convey your thoughts and opinions throughout the care process. Communicating your values, needs, and desires is the key to getting individualized care.

3. Meet your community
Connect with people who can guide you to great doctors and facilities. Ask around, get referrals, and interview providers. Tour facilities. Learn about all the different types of care that might be available in your community. Connect with others who have similar health issues, and use their knowledge to expand your own. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, when there is so much crowdsourced knowledge so close at hand. Create systems of support so you’re not going through your health needs alone. Supportive communities can literally be life savers.

4. Build a strong team
Find providers who match your philosophy of care, so you’ll be more likely to have a good working relationship. Work with providers who go the extra mile to spend the time you need to understand your health situation and make sure you’re actually being cared for. If you keep getting a nagging feeling that it’s not a good fit between you and your provider, switch. Your health is too important to leave in the hands of someone who is hard to work with, or you don’t trust.

5. Have effective conversations with your care providers
Do research on your condition, so you understand the basics and can talk about it quickly and efficiently with your doctor. Ask BRAIN questions (watch this video to know what those question are), and speak up for yourself. You won’t get the things you need if you don’t ask for them, and doctors and other caregivers can’t read your mind. You need to speak up about your values, needs, desires, thoughts, and opinions to get care that focuses on you.

Do these five things, and you’ll be better prepared, better informed, and ready to take actions to get care that works for you and your family.

Michal Klau-Stevens is a professional speaker and healthcare consumer advocate. She is a maternity consultant, pregnancy coach, and expert on consumer healthcare care issues, Past President of BirthNetwork National, a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and mother.  Her website is TheBirthLady.INFO. Find her on LinkedIn and on Facebook at The Birth Lady page!

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