Not all that long ago, a doctor’s word was deemed unquestionable wisdom. However, in recent years there has been a steady push to empower patients to advocate for themselves. “It’s been largely encouraged by dedicated patients and some providers who believe that healthcare isn’t only a right, but that people should have greater control over what happens to their own bodies.” says Linda Adler, CEO of Pathfinders Medical Advocacy and Consulting. By playing a more active part in your healthcare, you not only gain a greater sense of control, but also an increased confidence in decisions, enhanced medical literacy, improved treatment adherence and, ideally, better health outcomes. As vital as this practice is for adults, the need is even greater in the case of children.
Remember: You are your child’s voice.
A child’s first line of defense is a well informed parent. Your pediatrician is absolutely an important member of your child’s health team, we urge you against abdicating total responsibility for the health of your child. Remember, this is a meeting of two experts. After all, who knows your child better than you?
Always start by gaining an understanding of your child’s medical issues as well as possible treatments and therapies. Begin by requesting information from your doctor or wellness provider. This is not an imposition-they will often have a wealth of information readily available. They can also share tips on navigating the medical system or planning for the emotional, social and developmental needs of your child moving forward.
Who hasn’t fallen down the rabbit hole of diagnosing oneself on the internet? (WebMD anyone?) There is certainly a plethora of information to be found on the web. But, we caution you to limit your search to credible sources and proven treatments. This is to say, steer clear of sketchy forums, anonymous advice and worst case scenarios.
The primary fear among patients eager to play a more active role in their advocacy is the risk of souring an otherwise amicable doctor-patient relationship. You have the right to a respectful conversation with your provider about decisions pertaining to your health or that of your child. If your current provider is unwilling to engage in a dialogue beyond that of “they talk, you listen” it is time to begin exploring other options. Often, patients find that they feel less anxious when writing down questions prior to the appointment.This also shows respect for the doctor’s time, if that is something that is nagging at you.
Being an effective advocate doesn't require specialized skills or extraordinary capabilities. Simply asking for help and conducting a bit of research on your own, will help you to identify safe and effective ways to prevent and treat your child’s conditions.
Do you have more questions or maybe a topic that you would like to learn more about? We would love to keep the conversation going with you on our Facebook page!