The second of a weekly five-part series by Tiffany Matthews, BSW, MJ, Contributor
Healthcare in the U.S. is broken and only getting worse. In these difficult times, we have to worry about having insurance coverage, being able to afford treatment and getting good care during our treatment.
Many people settle for the care they get from their healthcare providers (any professional that treats you) when they should not. If you ordered a cheeseburger and got a hamburger, wouldn't you take it back? Do you use the same tactic in your healthcare? You’re not alone, most don't.
Have you ever had an experience at a doctor or hospital that was uncomfortable or frustrating? I'm here to tell you that you don't have to deal with poor treatment. Why, you ask?
Patient advocacy is the answer.
Being a social worker for 20 years in many areas of healthcare, I've seen plenty happen to people who were uninformed or didn't know what to say, do, or ask,. I've even seen it result in death.
What is patient advocacy?
This means pleading the case of meeting a patient's needs to their satisfaction during their healthcare journey. You can learn to do it for yourself after some intensive training from an advocate, or you can hire a one to help you.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that advocates, patient navigators and nurse navigators in healthcare facilities are out for your best interest. I am sure that they care about people as patients, but they receive a paycheck from the place they work for so they must work within the rules of that facility. I couldn’t stand it when I had to work within those rules.
If you hire a private advocate and pay them, they will go to the mat for your best interests in your care. Insurance does not cover advocacy, as our government has not regulated our profession. Anyone can say they are an advocate because of this. Make sure to check their education, skills and experience before hiring them.
In advocacy, intelligence is not a substitute for experience. Many very sharp people have called on my services because they didn’t know how to handle their healthcare situations, some after making matters worse. They alienated the healthcare providers or they were labeled as “troublemakers.” Communication shuts down, which is an awful scenario.
Frankly, I do not care what any healthcare provider thinks of me. My health is a treasure to me, as yours should be to you. After my healthcare experience, being a family member of someone gravely ill and a being a patient myself, I learned how to manage my healthcare. No burger without my requested cheese is more important than my health, so I put in the work. I am my healthcare CEO. You can do it, too.
Healthcare is a business and you are a customer. Further, you are responsible for your own healthcare. As a healthcare advocate I am here to help you get the best treatment possible by showing you what you can do to better your care. Doctors want patients to be involved with their care!
You can become an active and powerful patient – the benefits are priceless.
Tiffany Matthews, BSW, MJ, is a Writer, Social Worker & Healthcare Advocate at Live Better Boomer! Healthcare Access & Advocacy Services, in the greater Philadelphia area. You can also connect with her on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.