Patient advocacy is a key component to eliminating healthcare bias.
Gone are the days where one doctor’s word is final.
Given the interconnected world we live in, we now have access to a countless amount of healthcare information. Not only that, we also have access to a network of many different providers.
This means with the click of a button we have the ability to find a provider that’s right for us.
If you don’t take advantage of these resources, you put yourself at risk of mistreatment. This is especially the case for marginalized groups. Many studies show African Americans and Latinos are disproportionately subject to healthcare bias.
According to the U.S. News and World Report, if you’re African-American or Latino and you come to the emergency room with a broken leg or kidney stone, you’re less likely to receive the appropriate amount of pain medicine. It doesn’t matter where in the U.S. you’re located, it remains fairly consistent.
Knowing this, it’s extremely important people of color learn to be their own healthcare advocate.
Here are some ways you can be your own healthcare advocate:
1. Find a Healthcare Provider that Suits Your Needs
Checkout the Connect2Heal medical and mental health provider directory for people of color.
Nowadays, with a quick Google search you’re likely to find all the reviews you need about a physician.
Before picking a healthcare provider, do your research and make sure you don’t see any red flags.
Advocating for your own health at the doctor’s office is crucial, and a key component of this is finding a medical provider you trust.
If you’re a patient of color and want to find a provider of the same racial/ethnic background—sites like Connect2Heal are designed with you in mind.
Connect2Heal is a simple way to connect patients of color with physicians they can trust. It features a medical directory aimed at bridging the gap between patients of color and physicians.
2. Prepare Questions Ahead of Time
We know that visiting a doctor can be nerve wrecking.
In the heat of the moment, it can be easy to forget what you wanted to ask in the first place.
Making sure you’re prepared for your visit is key. A great way to practice this is by listing out all the questions you want to ask beforehand.
It could be as simple as writing out a list on the Notes app on your phone, or jotting them down on paper.
Taking time to write out your questions beforehand will not only help you feel more prepared, it’ll also help you organize your thoughts. By doing this, we’re remembering to speak up for our healthcare concerns.
When you’re at an appointment, if you feel your doctor brushed off or didn’t give you a proper answer to your questions—be sure to advocate for yourself.
This is especially important if you’re a person of color that is disproportionately subject to healthcare bias.
At the end of the day, patient advocacy is key to being your own healthcare advocate. When you feel prepared for your appointment, you’re supporting your own health journey.
3. Write Everything Down
Doctors and nurses will often take notes during your appointments. But, especially if you fear implicit bias may be at play, you should take your own notes.
You should feel empowered to ask your physician for a copy of the notes after the appointment. Many don’t know they are allowed to do this, but you are. In some cases you’re even able to add to them if you feel something was missed.
When it comes to preventing and assessing healthcare bias, a paper trail is key. It helps hold your physician accountable, and helps you stay informed on your health.
Having your own record of what happened at an appointment, will set you up to be a better healthcare advocate for yourself.
4. If You’re Comfortable, Bring Someone With You
There’s a reason people say there’s strength in numbers.
How many times have you gone through something in life, and thought “maybe it was just me”, or “maybe I’m just taking it the wrong way”.
This type of experience is especially prevalent if you’re dealing with bias by a medical professional. Sometimes, having a trusted individual by your side will help you assess a situation from an objective point of view. Oftentimes, you’ll realize that what you felt they also felt.
Having a trusted individual by your side can also hold physician’s accountable. These trusted individuals can help you make sure you get answers to your questions, and the treatment you deserve.
5. Take Time to Process a Diagnosis
Patient advocacy is important, but please remember it does not have to be immediate! Sometimes, you’ll receive a scary diagnosis from a doctor.
Mentally, you need to give yourself some time to process this. Please don’t hesitate to take time and understand what you’ve heard.
During this time, it may be beneficial to:
- Review your notes
- Discuss options with trusted loved ones
- Get together any further questions you have
- Receive a second opinion
You’ll find that when you give yourself some time to process, you’ll see things more objectively.
Maybe your loved ones will see something you don’t. Or maybe you’ll realize you have more questions.
There is no deadline on when your questions must be asked. When it comes to your health, any question is valuable and worthy of an answer.
Your medical providers should be here for you to help navigate this journey. If you feel you’re with a provider who is not respecting your questions or time to process things, they may not be a good fit.
At the end of the day, your provider should want to improve patient-physician communication. It is your healthcare journey and it’s their job to make you feel as comfortable as possible.
If your comfort comes from taking some time to think and process things—then by all means take the time.
The right provider will be by your side, and help you navigate your healthcare journey each step of the way.