Three simple ways to become your own health advocate

Sep 14, 2022
From coming prepared to your appointments to shared decision making, here are three easy ways Queenslanders can make the most of our healthcare system. Source: Getty Images

It’s been said that there are three key pillars to a happy and fulfilling retirement: money so you can live the lifestyle you’ve worked so hard for; health to enable you to do the things you want to; and social interactions to keep your mind sharp.

Even if you’ve taken care of your health and have done all the right things to give yourself the best retirement, we all know there are no guarantees. Most of us (at some point) will need to access the healthcare system. So, what happens then? Being an advocate for your own health is key to enjoying your retirement to its fullest. Being prepared and actively involved in your own healthcare will help you to make more informed decisions about your options and get the support that’s right for you.

Understanding how to use the healthcare system to access the right care, at the right time, in the right location, will help give you more control over your own health care journey and make more informed decisions. There are a few easy steps you can take to get better health outcomes, allowing you to live your best life in your 60s, 70s and beyond. 

1. Come prepared to appointments

A little preparation can go a long way. Whether you are seeing a new GP or continuing with the doctor you’ve seen for years. Some tips to make the most of your medical appointments are:

Know what you want to talk to your doctor about

Write a list of issues or concerns you want to talk about. Put the most important points at the top of your list. Not only is this a great way to make the most of your time with your healthcare practitioner, but it also ensures you get to discuss everything you had in mind.

If your list of questions or symptoms is long, make sure you book a longer appointment when you call or book online so that you don’t have to rush, ensuring you receive a thorough appointment. To be sure of no surprising out-of-pocket costs, check with your GP if a longer consultation will incur a higher fee.

Consider whether you want someone else to come with you

Having a trusted family member or friend attend an appointment with you is a helpful way to remember medical advice, take notes or remind you about things you wanted to raise with your GP. Family and friends can also be a source of comfort and support.

Know your current medications and medical conditions

Before your appointment, prepare a list of the medications you are currently taking. This includes both prescribed and over the counter medications and supplements, such as vitamins and minerals.

This can help your healthcare professional understand if any medications and supplements are affecting or causing symptoms of illness or injury, or changing the effect of treatments that are prescribed to you. Discussing any current or previous medical conditions will also determine the type of treatment your doctor suggests.

2. Have an honest conversation with your healthcare professional

Being your own health advocate starts with having a discussion with your doctor about your symptoms and activities. The more your healthcare professional knows about you, the more they will be able to  provide you with the best possible care and support that’s right for you. 

Remember, when your doctor asks personal questions, it isn’t to judge you and the information you give will be treated confidentially. Your GP just wants to ensure the advice and treatment plan provided is the best one to meet your health needs. 

It’s also important to ask your doctor questions if there is anything they have told you that is unclear. Understanding your health care can be tricky and it can be difficult to make sense of all the information you’ve been given, particularly if you’re feeling unwell. You can always ask your doctor to repeat what they’ve said if you don’t understand or write it down so you can read over it at home. 

Asking questions allows your doctor to have a better understanding of your main health concerns and what is important to you when deciding your treatment.

3. Be involved in the decision making

Your health and wellbeing is important. Being proactive and making your preferences known will help to give you control over your health care journey. Talking to your doctor and loved ones can help you make important decisions about your care.

The choices you make will not only affect your health but can also impact how happy you are with your overall health care experience. By becoming your own health advocate, not only do you get the most out of the healthcare system, but also a greater sense of confidence and control in your health outcomes. 

To learn more about how to become your own health advocate, visit the Queensland Plan website.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

The Queensland Health and Hospitals Plan

Queensland Health is committed to better, quicker healthcare for all. If you want to know more about how the Queensland Health Plan can support you and your community, including alternative ways to access care, call 13 HEALTH or click the link below for more information.

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