Five Easy Tips to Advocate for a Better Healthcare Experience

A Healthier You

Five Easy Tips to Advocate for a Better Healthcare Experience

Staci NormanContributor: Dr. Staci-Marie Norman, PharmD, DCES

When it comes to any health issue, you need to be your own advocate and build a team of people that can help you navigate the many ins and outs of the healthcare system. Diabetes is chronic, so learning the intricacies of healthcare and speaking up for your needs is essential. Think about all the different aspects of care you need to stay healthy while dealing with diabetes. There is your primary care provider and perhaps an endocrinologist to care for diabetes. You may need a cardiologist for heart issues, a nephrologist to care for your kidneys, or a neurologist if peripheral neuropathy starts to make your toes tingle. You need an ophthalmologist or optometrist to look at your eyes annually, a dietician to help navigate healthy eating, and let's not forget your pharmacist, who can help make sense of your medication regimen.

Here are a few easy things you can do to make your healthcare experience better:

  1. Know your doctors and make sure your doctors know each other. In other words, ensure you keep each doctor you see informed of who else you are seeing. You want your primary care doctor to be on the same page as your cardiologist, neurologist, or podiatrist.
  2. Have an accurate list of your medications. Your list should include your dose, directions, which doctor prescribed the drug, and why. It's important to have any over-the-counter medicines on your list. This includes vitamins, supplements, pain relievers, and allergy, cough, and cold medications. As a pharmacist, I have seen medication duplications or drug interactions become a problem too often because all prescribers were not on the same page and didn't know everything their patient was taking. Finding a pharmacist you know and trust and getting all your medications at one pharmacy can be a huge safety net for spotting drug duplication, drug interactions, and errors.
  3. Have a list of questions or things to discuss with your physician and take it to your appointment. Seeing the physician can be overwhelming, especially if you have multiple health issues. I can’t tell you how often I’ve walked out of an appointment thinking, “I forgot to ask about that.” Make your list, and don’t be afraid to ask questions on top of questions. If something doesn’t make sense to you, ask again. Health professionals sometimes forget that the terms we use may not be commonplace to the general public.
  4. Take a spouse or trusted friend to your appointments. Two sets of ears are extremely helpful when remembering what you need to do to optimize your health. Also, two brains working on remembering all those things that need to be asked is a bonus! A spouse also has the advantage of adding details to the physician's questions that you might not have thought to include or noticed as being important. The more complete the medical history the doctor gets, the better the diagnosis and care. It is also nice to have someone to talk to about the appointment. I've been that person for my father through his many health issues, and I can't tell you how many times we discussed his appointment on the ride home and picked up on something that the other did not understand or understood differently.
  5. Don’t ever be afraid to seek out a second opinion. Your health is extremely important, and if there is an issue you feel needs to be addressed or isn’t being addressed in the way you think it should, make an appointment with a different healthcare provider. If nothing else, it may give you more confidence in the original plan of action, or you might find a physician who better fits your needs.

Dr. Staci-Marie Norman, PharmD, DCES received her bachelors from Purdue University (’94) and her Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Oklahoma (’96). In 2000 Dr. Norman added to her credentials by becoming a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist. She is currently the Clinical Coordinator and staff pharmacist for Martin’s Pharmacy. Dr. Norman is a national faculty member for the American Pharmacist Association, teaching certificate programs in both diabetes and cardiovascular disease. She serves on the advisory board that oversees development and revision of these programs. Along with teaching and development responsibilities for APhA, Dr. Norman serves as a peer reviewer for research grants and publication submission. Dr. Norman has also spoken for Abbott, Bayer, Lilly, Mannkind, and Lifescan as a diabetes specialist.