The health care system can be confusing and complicated, even for the people who work in it. When you don’t understand or can’t make choices about your own health care, you can have poorer health.
Self-advocacy means taking an active role in managing your health or the health of someone you care for, and learning all you can about the disease or condition and the various treatment options so you can make decisions about care that is right for you.
Self-advocacy is the ability to speak-up for yourself and the things that are important to you. Some examples of self-advocacy at work are:
- understanding the health system,
- asking to see a different provider when you are unhappy,
- ensuring you have time to consider and make decisions, and
- questioning whether more tests or procedures are really necessary.
Shared Decision Making
Shared decision making, or the idea that a patient should participate fully in decisions about their health care, is relatively recent. Many people are used to a system where the doctor is in charge because they know best. Your doctor may be the expert on the medical condition, but you are the expert on yourself and your life.
Many consumers believe that shared decision making is vital for them to have their best possible health and make sure that their needs are met. But it means a new way of thinking about the relationship between consumers and health professionals, and a new way of talking with health care providers.
Shared decision making is a partnership that relies on everyone knowing what is going on and what the options are.
Self-advocacy is one way to ensure that you really do have a partnership with your doctor and that you are able to participate in genuine shared decision making.
It is important to ask for what you need and want, share your thoughts, feelings and experiences, and be involved in treatment decisions to get the best health outcomes.
Some ways that you can become a self-advocate are: