If we want a healthcare system that works, it is important that each person who enters the healthcare system be an active member of their team. In this post, I highlight five key members of the healthcare team in place to help people navigate through the complex healthcare system. To have the system work effectively, YOU need to be open, honest and communicate with each member of your team so they understand your goals, wishes, and needs.
To start, I want to say that YOU are the most important member of your team. When you are an active member of your team, you have the best chance of getting the care you need to help you reach your maximum potential.
The first member of your team I want to highlight is your Doctor (s). He/She will be your quarterback as you move through the care system. Take time to choose a primary physician that you can talk to and who takes the time to speak with you. Their staff is also essential, so get to know them. Building a relationship with your Doctor and their team is vital and can help improve your experience.
You will have many doctors as you move forward. It is important to keep track of each Doctor you see. Get their cards when you go to visit them and keep notes on what they tell you. It is a good idea to make a list of each Doctor you see and note their name, address, and phone and fax number. Keep in mind; you are the only constant member of your team, so you have to be organized and stay alert. It is also crucial that each Doctor knows who you are seeing. Ask them to communicate with each other, so each knows what the other is doing. You can ask for a copy of their notes and make copies for each member of the team. This way, each will know what the other one is doing.
Another tip is to prepare for each visit. Doctors are busy, so have your questions ready so you can ask them before you leave the office. Please don’t feel you are taking too much of their time. Your doctor wants to hear from you and make sure you understand and agree with what is happening.
Depending on your condition, you may have the opportunity to have a Nurse Navigator, a Nurse Case Manager, or a Social Worker. These professionals may work for your doctor or the hospital. They are in place for you to help you understand how the system works and how to get the answers you and your family need. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions you have.
Pharmacists are next. Get to know your pharmacists. They are an excellent resource. Pharmacists provide insight into your care and help you understand why things are done. When I was undergoing chemotherapy for a Central Nervous System Brain Tumor, the pharmacist was the most informative person on my team. He took the time to explain things to me and gave me a sense of calm. One tip is to make a list of all of your medications, prescriptions, supplements, and over the counter medications. Keeping this up to date is essential. If you have questions about your medications, talk to your therapists.
Third, are Therapists: Therapists are vital in your care. These are professionals who specialize in a specific area. Physical, Occupational, Speech, Cognitive, Behavioral, and Respiratory therapists are examples of some of the therapists you might come in contact as part of your treatment. These professionals have specialized skills to help you through your journey. Talk to them, ask them questions, and follow their directions.
Fourth is your clinical team. The clinical team consists of nurses, nurses’ aides, technicians, laboratory technicians, food service personnel. These people are all part of your team and there to help you. As a Brain Tumor Survivor, I get an MRI every few months to check for a reoccurrence. I have been lucky to go to the same facility for my MRIs and have had the same technician for all of my tests. He helps me get into the machine, makes sure I am comfortable, and gets my IV started. He helps me feel safe, which helps to decrease the ‘scan anxiety’ that comes with having a chronic illness and worrying about what will happen next.
Fifth is your personal or professional advocate. When you are in the complex healthcare system, you need to make sure you have someone with you. For most people, this will be a family member or a trusted friend(s). Having them accompany you to your appointments allows you to have a second set of eyes and ears. If your situation is complicated, you might want to hire a private advocate; a private advocate is someone who works for you and is in place to assist you as you progress on your journey. They can help you formulate questions for your team, help you research your condition and the options that meet your needs. They can be in place to review bills or to help you understand your insurance. Today, more and more people are hiring advocates because they want someone to be on their side to help them have a voice and to make sure things are going so your needs are met.
There are many other people you will encounter as you move forward on your journey as a patient. Try to get to know them and be kind to them. They have demanding jobs. A smile, a thank you, and a kind word goes a long way!
It is not easy to have a medical or mental health problem. The healthcare system is complicated, expensive, and intimidating. Being an active member of your team and utilizing the people in place to help you will allow you to gain control when things are spinning out of control.
Who has been your go-to person on your healthcare team? I would love to hear from as to who helped you get through a tough time as you moved through the vast and complex healthcare system. Put a note in the comment section.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have a question or a comment, please leave it in the chatbox. I will do my best to get back to you.