We know that we should get regular check ups and see a provider when something seems wrong. Though all too often we put off getting the help that we need. There are a lot of reasons people delay seeing a doctor. The health care system has become increasingly complicated, especially when you layer on the isolation and other challenges brought on by COVID-19 distancing.
As patients, we put a lot of trust in our health care providers and believe that they hold the answers to our problems, and the antidotes to our ailments. We expect to go to our doctors with problems and leave with a solution. In many cases this model definitely works. In other cases a quick fix just isn’t appropriate. This is especially true when working to resolve underlying issues and chronic disease.
If you find that you aren’t getting the help you feel you need, there are steps you can take to take control of your healthcare.
Advocate for Yourself
The plain and simple truth is, you need to be an advocate for your own health. Your healthcare team works for you, and you are an important part of that team. You are the only one that possesses the intimate knowledge of your own body. This is why it’s so vitally important that we learn to work in conjunction with our team of healthcare providers and add our own expertise to theirs.
And it is important to seek out different types of providers. We are all so unique and our health is impacted by many factors such as our genetics, personal history, diet and lifestyle, stress levels, and overall satisfaction with life. No single healthcare provider is going to have all the necessary skills or knowledge to address all of your health care needs.
Healthcare is becoming more complex and specialized. Aging populations, and the increase of chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease have encouraged medical professionals to adopt a multidisciplinary, holistic approach to health care.
Recognizing the ‘whole’ person in the prevention and treatment of disease may allow for more effective interventions and better outcomes. However, in General Practice, with only 10 minutes allocated per consultation, time constraints may sometimes make this difficult to achieve.
This approach to health is commonly known as Holistic Health care. Holistic healthcare focuses on the complete person, physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually, in the management and prevention of disease, and to maintain good health.
What’s a Healthcare Team?
Healthcare is a team effort. Each healthcare provider, as a member of your team, has a special role. Some team members are doctors or technicians who help diagnose disease. Others are experts who treat disease or care for your physical and emotional needs. Ideally, as you communicate with your providers, they communicate with each other about the types of treatments they are using and any significant changes in your condition. This communication is important because it helps the members of your team understand what treatments are helping you, and which ones are less effective.
Any healthcare professional you see becomes a member of your team. They may include:
Doctors, Physician Assistants, and Nurse Practitioners
Surgeons and Specialists
Complementary Health Providers (Massage Therapists, Hypnotists, Acupuncturists, Reiki practitioners, etc.)
Psychologists and Psychiatrists
Technologists and Technicians
Therapists and Rehabilitation Specialists
Emotional, social and spiritual support providers
Administrative and support staff
Community health workers and patient navigators
How to Be a Really Great Self-Advocate
As we mentioned, your primary care provider has an average of 10 minutes per patient. They are under a lot of pressure to fit your visit into a tiny amount of time. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t still people. It is the provider’s responsibility to explain things in plain language, but sometimes it may still be unclear. It is important that you, as the patient, ask questions when you don’t understand something. If you don’t understand something, ask "What does that mean?" when something a doctor says goes over your head. If you don’t ask, they may just assume that you understood what they meant. Keep asking questions until you understand.
Also, don’t be afraid to tell your providers about your own observations. It allows them to have a clearer picture of your health and can improve your care.
Because time with the provider is limited, it helps to make a list of the most important issues to cover and take it with you. If you have something that's really scaring you, it's best to get that on the table early on. Avoid bringing up things at the last minute, as you're walking out the door: "Oh, and by the way, I'm having chest pain."
Speak up if you have a concern with the care you're getting or if there's an issue you’d like your provider to consider. It might be a concern about customer service, the office environment, a health issue, a medication problem, or out of pocket costs. Communicating your concerns gives your provider the opportunity to address them, which is a win for you.
In addition, be sure to tell your providers if you are open to using Complementary Therapies. Complementary therapies are used alongside conventional medical treatments. Many complementary therapies concentrate on relaxation and reducing stress. They can help to reduce symptoms of disease, calm your emotions, relieve anxiety, and increase your general sense of health and well being to feel better and may improve your quality of life. Some are also considered “first-line” treatments for conditions such as anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.
The Role of Hypnosis
Hypnosis is a complementary therapy that works well with traditional medical care, and a first choice treatment for sleep issues, pain management, and stress. It can be used in conjunction with traditional therapies to make them more effective, especially in the treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes, COPD, and hypertension. It’s also used to increase compliance in treatment plans, diet restrictions, and smoking cessation.
Hypnosis is also useful in increasing confidence and self-esteem, which can make taking control of your health care even easier. If you’re having trouble speaking up for yourself, hypnosis can help.
You are the most valuable resource you have, and it makes sense to make sure that you are getting the best care possible. Being our own health care advocate means respecting the expertise of your providers and making sure they have all the information they need to do their best. It also means making sure you have all the information you need to live a full life.∎
Karen Gray is a Certified Professional Hypnotist, Certified Hypnosis Instructor, Registered Nurse, and Director of Green Mountain Hypnosis. For more information on how you can use hypnosis to change your life, schedule your free Strategy Call today.