One of the inevitabilities of aging is a greater need for healthcare. Older individuals spend much more time dealing with chronic health issues and preventative care. Navigating the healthcare system in order to get desired outcomes can be a challenge for anyone, but it is especially difficult for persons without much medical knowledge. The area of health psychology suggests that there are many psychological issues involved in the healthcare system, in healthcare personnel, and in patients themselves that can detract from or contribute to getting the best healthcare outcomes.
Here are some steps patients can take to help get the best quality of healthcare.
Be Active, Not Passive.
The message here is that given our complicated, overcrowded, underfunded, and often understaffed healthcare system, it is critical that patients take ownership of their own health. Rather than being a passive “follower” of whatever the doctor orders, it is critical to be informed, active, and proactive in attending to your health and the treatment options and services that you receive.
Find out all that you can about your healthcare options and the details of your health insurance program(s). There are online resources, such as WebMD, the Mayo Clinic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and others, that can help you investigate illnesses, injuries, treatments, and outcomes. Make sure that you are using a reliable and accurate source, such as those sponsored by the federal government. Realize, however, that sometimes these sources present “worst-case scenarios,” so don’t catastrophize and make sure that the information you research applies to your specific case.
Ask Questions. Be Assertive But Not Aggressive.
Healthcare providers may believe that you know more about your health and possible treatments than you really do. Along with medical jargon, it can be difficult to understand what your provider is telling you. Ask questions to make sure that you understand. It’s usually a good idea to take notes or have someone present with you who can listen to what is being said and help you verify that you understand everything. Be assertive and make sure to get all the information that you need, but don’t cross over into aggressive behavior.
Don’t be afraid to seek out a second opinion from another provider or to question your healthcare provider if you believe that not enough is being done. Again, be assertive but polite when asking for clarifications.
Follow instructions. Engage in healthful practices. Keep a positive mental attitude.
Research in health psychology has suggested that if a patient is dissatisfied with their healthcare provider and treatments, they may not follow the doctor’s orders simply out of spite and irritation. Remember that this is about your health and well-being. Be a positive advocate for yourself.