How to Become Your Own Patient Advocate
Last updated: March 2022
When I was diagnosed with hepatitis C, I had to learn key principles to take charge of my health while becoming my own patient advocate.
Key principles for patient advocates
One of the key principles for becoming your own patient advocate is asking questions and seeking answers from credible medical sources like your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist who make up your healthcare team.
First, make a list of your questions. Take your list, and if possible, take someone with you to your doctor's appointments to help you. Second, if you are not receiving the answers or help you need, speak up and be persistent. Be assertive. Remember, your healthcare team works for you and with you.
Thirdly, follow through. Follow up with tests, appointments, medication, and taking care of yourself. Ask for copies or access to your patient portal to see test results and communicate with your doctor’s office. Keep a list of all medications, vitamins, and supplements you take and when you take them. This is a good communication tool to have ready for your doctor or hospital visit.
Be discerning about online information. Seek information only from credible medical sources.
Learn the lingo
When I was diagnosed with hepatitis C, I had to learn the liver lingo, specifically with key blood work. Learn your blood work and liver panel and what they mean. Your liver panel will include liver enzymes ALT, AST, APL, GGT, as well as Albumin and Bilirubin, among other important indicators that help the doctor know the condition of your liver.
The RNA test will measure the amount of hepatitis C virus is in your blood. After 12 weeks of completing hepatitis C treatment, an RNA test will be done to see if the hep c virus is detected in your blood. If your test shows non-detected, you are considered cured. Your doctor may want to do follow-up testing and exams up to 24 weeks or longer depending on your liver condition.
Know your rights
As a patient, you have the right to access your medical records and test results, along with receiving copies. You have the right to patient privacy. Also, you have the right if you have had a bad experience with the doctor, nurse, or staff to speak up and report the situation. You also can change doctors.
Becoming your own patient advocate takes perseverance and proactive steps for your total health and wellness. Fight for your health, you are worth it!