I know from personal experience that making decisions about my own medical treatment can be a daunting task, especially when there are choices. Just because I am a healthcare professional with decades of experience doesn’t mean I have all of the answers. However, I do know how and where to get the answers I need. I’m not intimidated by anyone’s credentials when asking questions or seeking additional information. I want to know all of the implications for accepting or refusing the recommended treatment plan. I’ve pressed physicians and other members of the healthcare team to tell me everything I want to know, even when the answers were difficult to accept. I accept “I don’t know” lightly from a provider. I believe every patient deserves full disclosure regarding their healthcare decisions – a voice and a choice in treatment options and outcomes. That’s my objective and why I chose to step up as a patient advocate.
Much of what a patient advocate does involves Shared Decision Making (SDM) between patients, their family or caretakers and the healthcare team. Shared Decision Making is not a new concept. Some in the medical community utilize it although the process is not labeled as such. Others do not fully engage patients in the decision-making process because of the amount of time it requires to explain or various other reasons. If we could have an honest conversation with our healthcare providers about the diagnosis, treatment options and possible outcomes, perhaps we would invest more of our own initiative into following the recommendations and treatment plan. However, Shared Decision Making requires time for questions and answers, additional research, perhaps a second opinion and time to contemplate the choices. And to be quite honest, those of us in the healthcare profession know that many patients just won’t follow the plan anyway. So why should we pursue participation in decision-making? Will it make a difference in the outcome?
Trisha Torrey, President of The Alliance for Professional Health Advocates, outlines the pros and cons of SDM in her article “Shared Decision Making – A Process for Making Important Medical Decisions” in which she outlines an example of patient empowerment because of Shared Decision Making. It’s a good read and presents some practical advice. Perhaps you need empowerment or a voice to speak up on your behalf; an independent patient advocate will do just that. Call us to discuss your needs and determine how we can help with your healthcare decision-making. You deserve to know.