How Professionals and Patients Can Change the Healthcare System
As a healthcare provider, our professional training and education often revolves around how to help others on the basis of their impairments, diagnoses, and dysfunctions. Only in recent years, can I say that healthcare professionals are becoming more and more outwardly aware of the whole person.
From The Perspective Of The Healthcare Industry
We can extend care beyond our knowledge and information base, and deep into the hearts of those we are privileged to support each day. One way of doing this is to partner collaboratively. To recognize that one provider is not the end-all-be-all to one patient/client, in fact, patients/clients should have a team of support and be central to their team.
While this is a beautiful evolution of healthcare, the system itself has yet to catch up. Depending on your whereabouts, you may recognize that there are systemic limitations and communication gaps in fully meeting your goals. You may also recognize that the system still operates in silos and can seem fragmented as you try to coordinate services and providers-as we struggle with this too.
However, while I recognize there are systemic issues and obstacles – I do believe that if we all add value where we can as providers – the system will eventually change. I also believe the same is true for patients/clients who are empowered and forthcoming in their interactions. One of my contributions to healthcare is sharing my personal and professional experiences with others and liberating them to do the same.
Gaining Perspective On The Patient Side
At the onset of my career as a Physiotherapist in 2007, I became a caregiver to my chronically ill father and moved back home to help my mom care for him. As such, I experienced both sides of the healthcare system and developed a dual perspective of the care given and received each day.
My two identities ran parallel to each other for many years. While it was one of the most challenging times in my life, it was also so fundamental in shaping my professional practice as a clinician and improving people’s experiences and outcomes wherever I could.
Caregiving and witnessing my father’s journey with chronic health allowed me to gain the ability to better empathize, understand, and be fully present to my patients – their concerns, their goals, and their shared needs. It allowed me to become a pillar of encouragement and empowerment in facilitating patients to be their own advocates of care.
Self-Advocacy Tips To Remember
Throughout my 14-year journey as a clinician and 11 years as a caregiver, I have put together an empowering list of tips to refer to for support before and during your next interaction with your care provider:
- Keep a journal of events, consults, symptoms/patterns, etc.
- Prepare and write your questions before visiting your healthcare provider (e.g., the results of your diagnostics, surgical precautions, etc.) and make notes during if you are feeling overwhelmed by information.
- Prepare to share your goals, suggestions, and expectations to come up with a mutually agreed upon plan.
- Bring someone to support you and be another pair of eyes and ears.
- Prepare to ask about what could be done safely right now and about what the next steps are in your healing and recovery.
- Be prepared to ask about follow-ups – with who, where, when, location, phone # and how they’ll be in contact with you.
- Be autonomous – recognize that you always have a choice and can make informed decisions. Ask for clarification and ensure mutual understanding.
- Be prepared to be an active partner in the development and implementation of your plan of care.
- Be open if you feel safe to do so- the more we understand, the better we can help guide & support you.
- Ask for transparency regarding medical fees and for support or available funding for needed resources that you may qualify for.
- Remember, if you are not feeling heard, seen, or understood, you always have the power to seek another provider.
If you are hesitating to advocate for yourself, please understand that advocacy is not complaining. Advocacy simply seeks to understand, transform, and apply solutions for sustained change and for the highest quality of your life. I hope you also know that as you advocate for your own needs and goals, that you are also advocating for those who have not yet found their voice.
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