A female doctor is seated at her desk and talks to an elderly patient as she looks at her test. … [+]
As Americans pay more for healthcare each year—and expect more for their money—experts advise consumers to carefully review medical bills and study their health insurance policies. They also encourage people to take part in every healthcare encounter.
Here’s how patient advocates and experts suggest you get the most from your healthcare in 2022.
1. Plan wisely
Danielle Ripley Burgess, a Kansas City-based advocate, chief storyteller, suggests that you plan strategically and make sure to schedule your time slots early in each day. Fight Colorectal Cancer.
“The offices typically aren’t running so behind when you’re the first, second, or third appointment,” Ripley-Burgess said. “The encounters stay efficient, and your entire day isn’t thrown off because the doctor’s office was running behind.”
2. “Preparation, Preparation, Preparation!”
Experts recommend preparation to make the most of each visit.
“Create a list of concerns and questions you want addressed during the encounter and take notes during the appointment,”Madeline Shonka is the CEO of Wichita (Kansas-based) Co-Immunity Foundation.
Daivat Dholakia is vice president of Essenvia Software, a software company that supports the medical device industry.
“If you find yourself in a situation where your doctor is dismissing your concerns, the easiest fix is to have a symptom journal prepared,” Dholakia said. “This is especially helpful for chronic or hard-to-diagnose symptoms.”
Dr. Monty Ghosh, a Canadian internist and assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Alberta, suggests taking preparation a step further: Don’t just bring a list of concerns; prioritize them.
“Often patients come with a huge list of issues they are having and while these issues are important, it can often bog down the clinician and take away from the main issue at hand,”Ghosh said.
If you don’t have the time to address all of your concerns, let your healthcare provider and schedule a followup visit.
Similar guidance is available for telemedicine according to Dr. Rajinder Chahal a California-based endocrinologist, cofounder of Telemedicine. WhiteCoatRemote.comA job board for remote health workers.
Chahal suggests that you treat telehealth visits the same way as in-person visits. You should also keep your medication and health information nearby during the visit. Start your session early from a private location with stable internet.
3. Dig deeper
“The best way to advocate for yourself or a loved one is to ask questions,”Janet Gould, a Kansas City nurse and case manager, said: “Be prepared to ask the ‘why’ behind a recommendation to dig a little deeper. It may help you better understand the plan.”
Felicia Pryor is a doctor in pharmacy and suggests that you go beyond the surface level of information.
“Just because your labs look ‘normal,’ your vitals look ‘normal,’ your weight looks ‘normal,’ or if this pill should make you feel ‘normal,’ if you don’t feel ‘normal,’ keep digging,”Pryor said.
She says that the goal should be to identify root causes and to feel better than usual.
Mary Shomon Author and patient advocateTo spot any abnormalities, he recommends asking for a complete copy of your lab reports. You can have as many as 26% of cases, patients aren’t told about abnormal results.
“You not only have the right to your lab reports, but as an empowered patient, you need to review them carefully for errors,”Shomon. “It could save your life!”
4. Two ears are better than one
Experts recommend that you bring someone along to appointments.
“Often, it’s hard to remember everything discussed, especially if it’s a serious medical issue,”Ghosh stated. “Having a second set of ears can be helpful in remembering key things discussed.”
Karen Curtiss is a board-certified patient advocate, founder of The Care Partner ProjectAccording to, when you feel anxious or unwell, you can have another person help you remember what you need and help with follow up tasks like scheduling tests or picking-up prescriptions.
“Your ‘someone’ doesn’t have to be a professional advocate, but rather a friend or family member who is happy to take notes for you,” Curtiss said. “A partner can help track little details that can make a big difference in care and peace of mind.”
5. Healthy skepticism can be a good thing
Second opinions can feel like second guessing your doctor, but Chelsey Gomez says you shouldn’t worry about that. The Florida-based cancer survivor and founder of an online cancer community encourages people to seek a second opinion if something doesn’t sound right.
“It’s okay to seek a second opinion. You should not feel bad about doing so,” Gomez said. “Your doctors should feel comfortable with it and if they’re not…it’s a really good think you did!”
Even before getting a second opinion, Ron Shinkman, a Los Angeles-based certified patient advocateAccording to, you should be critical of the information you receive from your provider.
“For decades, the relationship between provider and patient has been primarily paternal,”He said. “The doctor makes a recommendation, and the patient is to follow it to the letter.”
But as medical groups and hospitals become more corporate, Shinkman says, patients must also reorient themselves to more businesslike relationships with providers.
“Moderately skeptical questioning is a better fit for this relationship, with providers being regularly reminded that cost is a factor for patients,”Shinkman stated.
Barbara Lewis believes patients should also be involved in their care. Lewis was the founder Joan’s Family Bill of Rights to help people protect themselves from diagnostic error after her sister, Joan, died in intensive care in 2012.
“Gone are the days when the clinician talks, and the patient only listens,”Lewis said. “Now patients need to research and educate themselves, prepare questions and speak up, and ask the clinician to partner with them in their care.”
Lewis says that healthcare is a team sport. You need to be a central member of that team.
6. Relationships are important
Don’t let healthy skepticism get in the way of building authentic relationships with healthcare providers, experts say.
“Form an actual friendly relationship with your care provider,”Ashley Johnson, founder and CEO of Loyal HandsA group of death doulas that support people at the end. “The more the care provider realizes that you are a person and not just another patient, the care team becomes more hospitable.”
Dr. Ben Aiken is a direct primary care provider in Asheville North Carolina and vice president for medical affairs. DecentEncourages people to have strong relationships with their primary care providers. Aiken states that these relationships are essential for staying healthy and helping you navigate the healthcare system in the event of a medical emergency.
7. Be your own project manager
“You are the project manager of your own health journey,” Shomon said. “Doctors and providers are there as resources, but in today’s medical world, it’s your job to manage your team.”
Shomon recommends finding the right project team members and making sure they communicate with each other and follow through. He also suggests keeping them informed.
“Your clinician cannot read your mind,”Jill Dehlin, a Michigan nurse, said that the hospital is based in National Headache Foundation board member. “If you have a sensitive question, just ask. Believe me, they’ve heard all kinds of personal questions and can probably help you, or refer you to someone who can.”
Marianne Sarcich, breast cancer survivor and advocate, says it’s important to have confidence in what you know about you and to let that help you raise your voice on your own behalf without wavering.
“Your voice is one of your strongest tools when it comes to your healthcare,” Sarcich said. “Your role on your healthcare team is an important one. Because remember this: while doctors are experts on medicine, you are an expert on you.”