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How to Be Your Own Medical Advocate

In 2013, the Journal of Patient Safety reported that 210,000 deaths per year were associated with preventable harm in hospitals — that’s one-sixth of all U.S. deaths annually! This isn’t just limited to hospitals; routine visits with your doctor or pharmacist can also be the cause of preventable mistakes. To help protect yourself and your health, your best course of action is to be your own advocate for your medical care. The following tips will guide you in what you can do to receive safe and effective treatment.

#1 — Ask for that second opinion

If you don’t feel comfortable with your doctor or their diagnosis, you should seek out a second opinion. You may be worried that this is an insult to your doctor, but it’s not – they understand that you want a relationship with someone that you feel comfortable with. A second doctor may appeal more to your personality or needs, and their analysis may potentially lead to a different diagnosis or treatment option.

#2 — Consult with Dr. Google

Yes, the accuracy of medical information online varies. But, knowledge of your own health issue is critical to getting the help you need – so do your research. Ask your doctor for information about your condition and take notes. Back home, learn all you can about your doctor’s diagnosis or treatment plan. With a constant stream of new medical discoveries, it’s possible your doctor hasn’t yet heard about a new treatment option. If you have questions, write them down and follow up with your doctor – or a new doctor.

#3 — Advocate for the best prescription drug pricing

It’s often up to the patient to secure the lowest price on prescriptions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if a more affordable option is available. Then use the free FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card to ensure that you always get the lowest price. Get the card or app, show it to your pharmacist, and receive an average of 43% savings on the cost of your prescriptions. You can also use the FamilyWize Drug Price Lookup Tool to comparison shop for the pharmacy with the best price for your particular prescription.

#4 — Consult with your pharmacist

Your pharmacist is an expert in medication, but they need to know your medical history and current medications so they can advise you regarding any contraindications. Adverse drug events (wrong drug, wrong dosage, etc.) can result in major health complications, so get your pharmacist on your team.

#5 — Don’t get a newbie for your surgery

It’s your right to ask your surgeon how many times they have performed your procedure. More experience usually equates to reduced risk. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor about their background.

#6 — Consider hospital affiliation when you choose your primary care physician

Familiarizing yourself with the reputations of the hospitals in your region can save your life. Nearly all primary care physicians (PCP) are affiliated with a particular hospital. Research your options and their safety records and reports on quality of care, and consider choosing your doctor based on the hospital you feel most comfortable with. You’ll thank yourself if you end up in the hospital for any reason.

#7 – Get and read your medical records

Whenever you leave a visit with a doctor or healthcare provider, ask for copies of your visit notes and any x-rays or other scans you may have had. Having these in your possession allows you to research your situation and more easily seek out alternative opinions.

In short, no one can care for your health like you do. Be your own medical advocate: Ask questions, be observant, and do your research.
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