The Empowered Patient

October 30, 2010 by  
Filed under health

If you’re over forty, you’ve no doubt experienced a medical appointment which was rushed by your physician. Or perhaps you’ve had the misfortune of misdiagnosis or a medical error. Nothing new these days, right?

What may be a new chapter in healthcare is an era of patient advocacy, a term more and more of us will come to know in the coming years. With doctors pressured to see a higher volume of patients, the time you spend with your physician will no doubt be more limited. And with the 32 million people getting health insurance by 2014, there will be more patients for doctors to see. With an aging population and medical schools producing the same amount (or fewer!) physicians, a warning shot has been fired: all of us must be poised to be effective advocates for our own health.

What does that mean, exactly? We, as both patients and caregivers, need to understand our treatment options. We also need to learn how to proactively work with insurance companies, how to talk about and prepare for end of life decisions, how to advocate for our safety, and learn how to question and ultimately advocate for our own health.

Author Trisha Torrey of Every Patient’s Advocate is a woman who has spearheaded the patient advocacy movement. Sadly, she knows the American healthcare’s dysfunctional system all too well. When she was diagnosed with aggressive, terminal cancer and told she had only a few months to live, it didn’t sit right. She searched further and further. Ultimately, Trisha had indeed been misdiagnosed with cancer. Once a mild-mannered marketing consultant who knew almost nothing about healthcare, she delved into the American healthcare system that was tasked with treating her.

Initially Trisha made every mistake a patient could make. But she got smart, fast. She learned that the possibility of excellent care was too easily and frequently eclipsed by miscommunication and mistakes. She also learned that if she didn’t stick up for herself, and insist on the help she needed, she would not get it.


As a staunch advocate of the Patient Advocacy movement, here are some of her suggestions:
• Get invested in the process. Think about how you would advocate for your child. Now do it for yourself.
• Know your family history. This can help with both diagnosis and treatment phase.
• If you ever get a devastating diagnosis, don’t make quick decisions. Explore resources to get the comfort and information you may need.
• Realize the pull and power of the pharmaceutical industry. It is a business. Don’t be naïve.
• Research all prescribed drugs, and recognize that drugs affect each individual differently. One must take into account their age, ethnicity, and sex. Recognize that no drug hold all the answers, so research complimentary alternatives.

All in all, have a voice. Support those who cannot support themselves, and recognize that we have to make ourselves accountable for our own health as we make healthcare providers more accountable.

If you are trying to navigate the healthcare maze, you may want to check out the following Patient Advocacy Resources:

• Patient Empowerment:
• AdvoConnection: Helps find an advocate when you or a loved one needs assistance for medical/ navigation issues, billing or insurance claims, getting permission for insurance payment rejections, birthing, geriatric home health and more. Itʼs a free service that lets you search by zip code and service needed.
• Association of Cancer Online Resources (ACOR): offers access to 159 mailing lists that provide support,
information, and community to everyone affected by cancer and related disorders.
• Center for Advancing Health (CFAH): CFAH conducts research, communicates findings and advocates for policies that support everyoneʼs ability to benefit from advances in health science.
• Center for Medical Consumers: Is committed to broadening public awareness about the safety and quality problems that pervade Americaʼs medical care. The Center is active in both nationwide and statewide efforts to reduce medical errors, report disclosure of physician conflicts of interest, improve the quality of medical care, and encourage public access to information about the comparative performance of doctors and hospitals.
• CNNʼs Empowered Patient: Elizabeth Cohen presents her weekly stories about patients who stepped up in unusual ways to get the medical help they needed.
• Coalition for Patients Rights: The Coalition for Patientsʼ Rights consists of more than 35 organizations representing a variety of licensed health care professionals who provide a diverse array of safe, effective, and
affordable health care services to millions of patients each year.
• Consumers Advancing Patient Safety (CAPS): Is a consumer-led nonprofit organization formed to be a collective voice for individuals, families and healers who wish to prevent harm in healthcare encounters through partnership and collaboration.
• The Empowered Patient Coalition: The Empowered Patient Coalition is dedicated to providing an unprecedented level of information, resources and educational support to the public. The Coalition is committed to promoting a culture of transparency, meaningful interaction and active participation that will allow patients and their advocates to assume a greater role in improving the safety and the quality of their health care.

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