Today's health care environment is also
undergoing massive and rapid change that is having far-reaching effects
on all consumers. Therefore as we experience a leaner and meaner health
care system, it is more important than ever before that we sharpen our
self-preservation and self-advocacy skills. Developing these skills may
seem overwhelming at first, but they can be mastered in small pieces. And
it is worth the effort, because utilizing these skills may save your life.
The time has come for providers, especially doctors, to stop playing God and for individuals to stop worshiping them. Providers deserve respect, not worship! In today's rapidly changing health care environment, the old "doctor knows best" attitude is disappearing fast. People are finding they must learn how to be effective advocates or they may have to do without essential care. Being passive can be dangerous to your health.
Become informed and stand up for yourself. Use health professionals as consultants rather than as gods. They have knowledge about the ‘science' of body and psyche, but you are the only one who is an expert on you ....To heal, or become whole, is not the same as being cured. A cure comes from outside of ourselves. Healing is something that occurs within. And being healed may not mean that we are cured. It may simply mean that we reach a state of empowerment, self-love and skilled self-care."
Health care consumers have to take back control they may have given to providers. You have the right and the responsibility to speak up. Getting the most out of health care services requires you to be active and vocal in all aspects of health care. You need to see yourself as a customer who is purchasing services from health care providers. It's your health and your right to be involved in every decision. Savvy consumers take responsibility for their health, are co-managers in their health care and share in the decision making process.
When seeking health services, an informed,
empowered, assertive approach is key. You should bring your dignity and
your advocacy skills with you. Self-confidence is important, that is, a
belief that you can manage your medical issues. Self-confidence and assertiveness
make things easier.
Being prepared and having faith in your life experience and your common sense will help you avoid feeling intimidated by places and providers who may appear cold and distant.
Sylvia Berta Alaniz was told she needed an ileostomy and, if she didn't do this, her kidneys wouldn't hold out, and she would die within two years. She got a second opinion by asking a staff radiologist what he thought. He told that her kidneys were in great shape. The next day, she checked out of the hospital and made an appointment with a well-known urologist who supported the radiologist's opinion. "I spoke up for myself 15 years ago and I'm glad I did it... Speaking up may be the only thing that keeps us from the unnecessary operation... After my experience in speaking up for myself, I found I became a stronger person. I've become more conscious of controlling my own health decisions. After all, it is my body. Speaking up is the most powerful tool we have for protecting ourselves, and protecting the way we want to live our lives (January/February 1988 Disability Rag)."
A fairly typical problem is providers who fail to physically evaluate individuals out of their wheelchairs. Take the example of Fred, a wheelchair user, who, with help, can stand and walk a few steps. The first time he had a physical with a new doctor, the doctor never had him get out of his chair. He assumed Fred could not get up and Fred felt too intimidated to suggest that the doctor do the examination differently. If the doctor had asked Fred to get out of his chair, Fred could have received a more comprehensive and complete physical exam.
Believe in and have confidence in your own experience. Don't be intimidated by credentials and degrees! You don't have to be a rocket scientist to be a partner in your health care. Your personal experience is what is key, what is unique.
Nobody can make you feel inferior but yourself. Eleanor Roosevelt
Be aware, assuming a "sick role" because
you are called a "patient" may be damaging to you. A sick role has connotations
which disempower people. The role connotes that people should be told what
to do, cared for and passively wait to get help. While sometimes this is
inevitable, it can also lengthen treatment time and create an unhealthy
dependence on others. The threat of loss of independence and control imposed
by some condescending, patronizing, paternalistic and/or overly concerned
health care provider attitudes requires people to develop assertiveness
and an active approach in a sometimes hostile and negative environment.
to Resources on Managed Care for People with Disabilities
Source: Copyright © 1998 Be a Savvy
Health Care Consumer, Your Life May Depend on It! by June Isaacson
Kailes, Disability Policy Consultant. For nformation on ordering this guide,
contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to KAILES - Publications,
6201 Ocean Front Walk, Suite 2, Playa del Rey, CA 90293, or visit /resource.html