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How to self-advocate for safer medical care

In New York and across the country, needless medical errors cause pain, suffering and even death. Patients can empower themselves and feel more confident about their health care by becoming medical self-advocates.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, 98,000 people die each year as a result of medical errors. These deaths too often could have been prevented by proper care from medical professionals. Research has shown that patients have better results when they become active participants in their health care decisions. One of the best ways that a patient can self-advocate is to become a better manager of her health care information. A patient should know the medications she is taking and in what doses. She ought to periodically review her medications with her doctor to see if she needs to renew, alter, or end any of her prescriptions. She should always make sure her health care providers know who she is, why she is receiving treatment and any allergies she has to medications. She should endeavor to learn more relevant information about her medications, illnesses and conditions. She should also inform her providers right away if her condition changes or worsens.

The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship also encourages patients to become self-advocates for their health care. It describes self-advocacy as encompassing four elements which include, “information-seeking, communication, problem-solving and negotiation.” The application of these elements could include such steps as researching diagnosis and treatment options and asking questions to understand the risks and benefits associated with each. It can be working to establish constructive communication with a health care team. When difficult decisions must be made, successful self-advocacy allows a patient to work with her providers to tailor treatment to her personal needs. Self-advocacy is a powerful tool that can offer patients hope and security in their health care choices. It can have life-saving results.

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