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Tips to Be the Best Health Advocate for Yourself

By October 17, 2019Well-being

Picture this: You’re at a doctor’s visit for a cold. After an exam, your doctor thinks this may be more than a cold and that you have developed asthma since your last check-up. Your doctor decides to send you for some further testing to be sure. You’re confused because you’ve never shown symptoms before and you’re not sure how this diagnosis might change your life.

You want to speak up and ask questions, but you don’t want to be annoying by asking too many or have your doctor think you weren’t listening.

I am here to encourage you to speak up! Ask your questions!

You’re a Big Part of Your Medical Team

Doctor visits can be overwhelming and confusing. That’s why communication between you and your doctor is so important. You are just as much a part of your medical care as your doctors and nurses. It’s your health, and you should fully understand what’s going on with it.

There are things you can do before, during, and after your appointment so that you’re prepared and well-informed.

Before your appointment

Take a proactive approach when preparing for your next doctor’s appointment.

  • Write down a list of all prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications you take and bring it with you to your appointment.
  • Be sure to bring your insurance card and contact information for any other doctors you see.
  • Sometimes it helps to have a second set of ears with you. So, ask a trusted family member or friend to go to your appointment with you.
  • If you have trouble seeing or hearing, bring your glasses and hearing aids to ensure you see and hear clearly.
  • Bring a pad of paper and a pen or use the notes app on your smartphone for writing down information.

During your appointment

Be empowered to participate in the conversation. After all, it is your body and your health!

  • Be honest. Try to be as honest as you can when your doctor is asking questions about your health.
  • Pay attention to details. Tell your doctor your symptoms and don’t leave out any details. You don’t have to be embarrassed, because your doctor has probably heard it all!
  • Repeat, if necessary. When you don’t understand something, ask questions, or ask your doctor to repeat things.
  • Get full understanding. If your doctor sends you for more tests, make sure you understand why and what the different results might mean. Don’t leave the office until you have 100 percent clarity. 

After your appointment

  • If you’re not satisfied with your doctor’s diagnosis and treatment, it’s okay to get a second opinion.
  • If you understand your diagnosis and treatment plan, follow your doctor’s advice. Be sure to start a new medication regimen, or go for more testing, if they advised you to. Keep your follow-up appointments, too.
  • Contact your doctor if you have more questions in the days or weeks after your appointment.

If you had a diagnosis, it’s good to do some research. But don’t get sucked into a rabbit hole. Everyone is different, and your doctor can help you navigate through unhelpful or inaccurate information.


Ashley Weyler

I’m a writer and a film, music, and TV buff who loves Philadelphia sports. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, which means I’m always on-the-go. I try to make healthy decisions that fit with my lifestyle; whether it’s choosing healthy food while eating at a restaurant, finding exercises I enjoy doing so I stay motivated, or achieving a good work-life balance.