Tips on how to become your own healthcare advocate
It's not lost on me...
that I'm living my "dream life." I get to raise my daughter where there are "sidewalks, trees, and safety" and my "job" is to help amazing people achieve their health goals using Chinese medicine and acupuncture.
Although I am an Oregon native, I've been fortunate to have several opportunities to live abroad. Most of my junior year of college was spent studying in Spain and I've lived in Costa Rica and China. And my first acupuncture job was aboard the Coral Princess ship for 8-months in "international waters!" Immersing myself in exciting new environments, meeting new friends and experiencing other cultures has greatly influenced me.
Yet, the most important lesson I've learned while being away is how lucky I am to call the U.S. my home. I've been able to take advantage of opportunities that most people in other parts of the world couldn't dream of. This is true freedom, in my very humble opinion.
To me, freedom also includes the concept of "health freedom." What does health freedom mean? This phrase immediately takes me back to China. Our patients would come into the clinic and give a pocket-sized notebook to the "master" doctor that I was practicing under. This booklet held the patient's entire health history! I was shocked. They didn't have to ask permission from medical adminstrators or sign forms to obtain their health records. You might argue that "private information" has a different meaning in China. Nevertheless, individuals owning their medical records still strikes me as pretty cool.
On a deeper level, health freedom means proactively researching your options and making empowered choices when it comes to medications and/or procedures. That being said, this is a good time to inform you that although my license is under the Oregon Medical Board like a medical doctor, I am not a medical doctor. And I am in no way saying that you should stop your medication or decline a procedure.
I am simply recommending an informed approach to your health even if it means taking a bit more time with your doctor to ask the sometimes awkward or "tough" questions. And you're probably not the only patient to ask questions. I love answering patient queries as it gives me a chance to educate as well as treat!
How can you achieve more health freedom?
When you see your doctor, actively listen to their evaluation and proposed treatment plan. You might even considering taking notes. Their plan might sound great and make complete sense. I hope so!
I have had wonderful experiences with my medical doctors and in fact, consider them my friends! While in acupuncture school, I was chosen to intern for 6 months in OHSU's Family Medicine department. I had the most fun working with the MDs...we spoke each other's language!
However, most doctors have a huge burden of responsibility while given very little time with patients. Furthermore, it's possible that your doctor has prescribed this medication/procedure so often that they might sound "casual" while explaining it. The recommendation might be so common that it's become "normal" to them. However, it likely isn't familiar to us. So, if you have questions after listening to your doctor's proposal, here are a few simple ways to get the conversation started.
In your own words, begin with something like this:
"Thank you for opening up this discussion with me. I appreciate that you and I want to achieve the best health outcome possible. Given this, I have a few questions to clarify my situation. You might not have time to answer them today so I'm happy to send them electronically as well. At this point, I'd like to ask my questions while I am here in case there are any "simple answers" that you can give me now."
1. What are my options?
2. Can I take some time to think about this?
3. How long will I need this medication?
4. What is the process of recovery from this procedure?
5. What are the rates of success with this medication/procedure?
6. What happens if I don't move forward with this medication/procedure?
7. Is there anything that I could do myself that could help? Ie. a device, supplement, or herbal formula?
And my favorite question to ask is:
8. What would you do?
I hope that this helps and as always, thank you for doing this with me!
P.S. Make sure to save the date for our annual summer party! We’re trying to break our record of 36 bottles of champagne...going for 40!