I got a call today from a friend who was just bounced around the health care system for a couple of stressful months of
poking, prodding and heightened worry. The possible conditions and the series of expensive tests he went through had
him whirling, physically and mentally. The experience left him asking, is this all really necessary?
health care system can seem like finding your way through a complex maze. I've travelled that road many times, and learned
what happens when you let go of the reins - It can be like riding a runaway horse! There is an easier way. Amy Sluss, RN,
recommends in her book, Health Care Your Way, six steps that can make the experience run more smoothly. I met
Amy at last year's Art & Science of Health Promotion Conference, put on each year by the American Journal
of Health Promotion, and she and her book made a lasting impression on me - I realized that her new book, and the stories
in it, embodied some of the meaningful work I do as a wellness and life coach. There is so much to understand about the health
care system and how it works. I've worked in the health care system, in the human resources departments that negotiate with
the system, and have lots of experience as a patient trying to navigate the system. And many learning experiences from when
I hit some rough patches during the voyage!
In her book, Amy's recommends these six steps, notated in bold. I've added
my insights and some tips for each step - It's a way to give you the inside scoop about what I've learned as a frequent voyager
in today's always changing health care waters.
1) Learn all you can. I remember how hard it was for
me to get comfortable asking questions of physicians and other health care professionals. One tip that worked for me was to
write questions down before my appointments. Next, of course, i had to take notes about the answers - otherwise I found myself
forgetting important details because there was so much information to absorb in a short amount of time.
your story. I keep a running file that I use for healthcare visits - Lately I've been keeping track on my smart phone.
It's simple to transfer the data to my computer when I synch phone and laptop. Here's how to get started: Make a few notes
that will help you tell your health story clearly and concisely. Use a direct style of communication, get right to the point,
and depict the whole picture in as few words as possible. I found out the hard way that it's important to share the entire
relevant picture upfront and swiftly, or some of the story can be left out while clinic protocol flows quickly and efficiently
along. Both you and your health care provider will benefit from taking into account your "whole person," so a bit
of preparation helps make this happen.
3) Gather advice. When health care providers make
recommendations, your job is to make sense of the opinions you receive, and make informed, sound decisions. I've found some
ways that I better process the options I have to consider: I discuss them with people I trust - family, friends, other health
professionals. And, I have found it is wise to get a second opinion when there are complex factors to consider.
Make decisions. It may not feel like it sometimes, but it's up to you. Each time you use
the health care system, you weigh your choices, the pros and cons, and make your own informed decisions. How do you do that
more simply and quickly? Take a sheet of paper and briefly list the information you've collected, in two columns: pros,
or benefits, and cons, or potential consequences, like side effects, time issues, costs. Ask
yourself, how much time are you willing to wait for your body's natural healing powers to take care of the discomfort? What
are your other options, such as natural or complementary healing methods? What life circumstances do you need to consider?
Implement your plan. When it comes right down to it, you determine how you implement your plan. This
is where I have been known to waffle, because life can be unpredictable, and so sometimes you've got to change course. Think
ahead about what strengths you'll bring to the healing process, and how you will avoid or overcome any obstacles to your plan
6) Evaluate your progress. So, when I bend like a river around obstacles in my way,
I do OK. It's when I get rigid, or fail to see the full spectrum of gray between black and white, that I run into what can
seem like insurmountable hurdles. Bottom line, if you stay flexible, and ready to change course when circumstances change,
you're more likely to have a healthy outcome. The best way to do that is to evaluate your progress regularly, perhaps with
the help of your health professional, to determine whether and when you need to take a different approach.
to Choose - Keeping these six steps in mind is second nature for me now. But to get there, I went through a
whole lot of getting lost, reaching dead ends, enduring accidents, and aggravating conditions before I learned how these steps
keep me moving forward, with the reins firmly in my own hands. It feels good to know how to find my way, and to be able to
share this navigational know-how with you.
Take care, and be well,