We can all pretty much agree that the health care system is broken. Whether you are a patient, a provider or staff member things are not running smoothly these days. Administrative headaches with insurance companies, miscommunications and general frustration are pretty much the norm. This is the unfortunate way things are at the moment.

I hold out hope, though, that this is not the way things will always be. That there will be shifts and changes over time – just like the days of Marcus Welby have morphed into a situation like this where no one’s needs are being met much of the time.  Somehow things got out of control. And I trust that somehow things will start working better again.

It’s a tangled mess at the moment and you have to start somewhere.

I believe the place to start is with us as health consumers.

That is why I have created Patient Power:  Get the Healthcare You Deserve – you can get the information you need, make sure you and your provider understand each other easily, without getting overwhelmed and frustrated.

I see my job as helping those of you who want to lead full active lives manage your health in ways that work for you.  Whether you have a chronic condition such as diabetes or arthritis, are struggling with niggling aches and pains or have something more serious, I want to support you in getting your needs met by your healthcare provider.

What this means is that rather than take an adversarial approach that the health care system is broken and healthcare providers need to step up to the plate, we as healthcare consumers need to partner with them.

How can we get our needs met for good quality healthcare?

It is our responsibility – even when we are sick, angry, frustrated, scared or overwhelmed – to communicate what’s going on with us clearly so that our healthcare providers can apply their professional expertise to our unique situation.

Without giving them the information they need in a way they can hear it, they cannot effectively help us.

That is both the very good news and the not so good news.

If we do a good job giving them concise information about our symptoms, the effects of medications we’re taking, what makes things harder for us, and what we want help with – we have a good chance of getting our needs met as long as we have a good working relationship.  That’s the good news.

The bad news is that there are times where we can communicate concisely and clearly, and still not get our needs met.

When that is the case, it’s time to look at whether we have the right healthcare provider.  That can be a very difficult experience particularly when we’re not feeling well and need their help.  And that is the bad news. . . and at the same time is very good information to have so that we can move forward and find the right provider.

Either way, good clear concise objective information and making our requests known will help us all work together.

I want you to remember you are not a patient.  You are a person – and a healthcare consumer from time to time – but first and foremost you are a person with lots of activities, interests, and passions.

No one wants or needs to define themselves as a patient.  From time to time – sometimes more often than we like – we assume the role of a patient.

And when we need help and use the healthcare system, we then don the garb of a patient.  During those times, we need to step into the consumers shoes that we are wearing and strut our stuff by modeling clear concise communication skills to get our needs met.

It all boils down to how YOU take responsibility for getting your own needs met – and when we all do that, then we have a lot more satisfied healthcare consumers.  And that is my ultimate goal.

And that is what everyone wants:  you want help to feel better and your provider wants to use their professional skills to help you.

There is a big movement right now where healthcare providers and patients seem to be polarized.  Many healthcare providers feel overworked and underpaid.  Many patients are outraged by how slowly the wheels of healthcare turn and how difficult it is to get the help they need. There is an easier, more efficient way.

Here are some tips to get your needs met as a healthcare consumer:

  • Figure out what issue you need help with, what makes your symptoms worse and what makes things easier. Use the Appointment Preparation Worksheet ahead of time so that you remember everything.
  • Share facts about what’s going on with you rather than stories. Here’s an example of a fact:  My hands hurt when I type. I get shooting pains in all my fingers that go up through both my hands.
  • Bring a list of all of your medications and supplements to your appointment.
  • If you’ve done research on your condition, bring a specific list of questions that you have rather than asking them to read your research material during the appointment. You can bring  a copy of your research with you if you want and ask them to read it later and have it available in case they ask for it.
  • If you don’t have a definite diagnosis or if you’re unsure, always ask your provider these two questionsWhat do you think is wrong with me?  What else could it possibly be? These questions remind your provider to think expansively about what could possibly be going on with you.

Having said all this, be gentle with yourself. It’s really really hard when you are sick or in pain to be articulate. Know that you are doing a heroic thing by asking for what you need directly and clearly, even though life is difficult for you right now,  and give yourself credit for that.

Yes, the system is broken – no question about it. And as broken as it is, there are good healthcare providers everywhere who want to help us as patients and we need to give them what they need so they can do their job well.

We all need to work together rather than against each other:  it’s your job to let your healthcare provider know what you need. And you can do this!

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