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Be your own health advocate

Published in For the Health of It Author: Kelsey J. King, APRN, CNP

As a primary care provider, I spend my days seeing patients who are both sick and well. At every appointment, I try to be aware of not only current health concerns but also to partner with my patients to keep them healthy in the long run.

Detecting problems early through health screenings has really brought out the importance of advocating for my own health as well. To me, this means having a relationship with my health care provider and working to do my part to stay well. I try to do the following and encourage everyone to do the same:

  • Be open. Share how you are feeling. Inform your provider about any previous medical issues, including your family history to help better equip them to make the best health care decisions with you. 
  • Be proactive. Do not wait until your yearly physical to bring up everything that has been bothering you. It is a good time to bring up new, minor symptoms you have noticed, but any significant health problem should be evaluated sooner rather than later. Bringing up too many new “problems” at your physical can prevent you from spending enough time on the preventative health items to keep you well.
  • Be accountable. Although today’s electronic medical records make it easier than ever to track future health screenings, it still is important to maintain some personal accountability for your health. I find it helpful to put a note on my paper calendar as to when my next appointment, lab or other test is needed to make sure it is done on time. If you use MyChart, it’s easy to save an appointment to your Outlook calendar.
  • Follow through. This is the hardest part — actually following the advice that is given. It can be hard to ice that aching joint every two hours or to remember to take a vitamin or medication on a regular schedule, but it won’t work unless you do it! If you have concerns about being able to follow through, talk with your provider before leaving the appointment to see if the plan can be adjusted to fit your life better.
  • Make notes before and during your appointment. I find that if I write down my concerns before I meet with my provider, I am more likely to remember things that have been bothering me since my last visit. Making a list of things you want to discuss with your provider helps to ensure that your needs are addressed during your appointment. In addition, taking notes during your provider visit can help you to remember the plan you and your provider discuss in clinic and support your success outside of your office visit.

By taking simple steps to prepare for your next clinic appointment, you are making strides in becoming your own health care advocate!