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You are the quarterback of your healthcare team

Whether you are an older adult, an expectant mother or an injured athlete, you are your own best healthcare advocate.

"It is important to be actively involved in your healthcare and self-management," says Susan Gordon, LMSW, manager of Piedmont Sixty Plus Services. "It's important to seek information from reliable, trustworthy sources, be accountable for your health conditions, and actively participate in your care."

Gordon offers the following strategies to help you be an advocate for your health and well-being.

Keep your own medical records

"These days, people often see several medical specialists who aren't necessarily communicating with each other," explains Gordon. "Each care provider has a unique role and is focused on one part of your body."

For example, your cardiologist may not communicate with your endocrinologist about heart medications that could affect your diabetes management.

Your medical records should include a list of:

  • Your medical conditions
  • Medications you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs
  • Providers you see, including your primary care physician, specialists, physical therapists, nurse practitioners, etc.

Bring this list with you to all of your appointments. Share it with your provider and reference it when filling out paperwork. This will help your care provider have a better picture of your health history so he or she can make the best recommendations for treatment.

"You are the quarterback of your healthcare team," she says.

Ask questions

Do not be afraid to ask questions. It is your care provider's job to help you make informed decisions about your health. Prepare a list of questions in advance and bring them to your appointment. It's easy to forget what you wanted to ask when you are in the middle of an appointment.

During your visit, clarify with your care provider:

  • What is my main problem?
  •  What do I need to do?
  • Why is it important for me to do this?

"You can avoid preventable issues if you ask thorough questions," says Gordon. "It can be overwhelming to remember instructions for at-home care. Bring a trusted family member or friend with you if you feel like you'll have a difficult time remembering instructions. Write things down."

Understand your healthcare team

"We used to go to the doctor's office or hospital and expect to see a doctor, but now more people are seeing nurse practitioners, physician assistants, health coaches and patient navigators," says Gordon. "This is a good thing, because these providers can often spend more time with you. It's not a bad thing if you don't see the physician every time you go to his or her office. It's a change in the way a medical practice is structured."

Know your healthcare benefits

Talk to your company's human resources department or call your insurance company with questions.

"At Sixty Plus, we have a Medicare specialist who does one-on-one and community consultations," she says. "Each year something about Medicare changes and our specialist helps people keep up." 

Check your medical bills for errors

Review your medical bills and call the appropriate billing department if you believe you have received a charge in error. 

Know when to seek a second opinion

"It's important to have a good connection with your provider, particularly if you have a chronic illness," says Gordon. "If you feel like you don't have a good connection, call the office and ask about switching to another provider in the practice."

Never stop learning

"Be as proactive and educated as possible," she says. "Take advantage of community presentations and webinars, but be wary about what you read on the Internet. There is a lot of false information out there. The more you can educate yourself about wellness or an illness, the better decisions you will be able to make."

For more health and wellness tips, click here.

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