6 Steps to Getting the Care You Need

Each year, too many Americans die as a result of medical errors, while others suffer inadequate or inefficient care as they attempt to navigate our increasingly complex health care system.

You and your loved ones deserve to get the best quality of care possible, but sometimes that’s easier said than done. Between seeking a diagnosis, finding the right physician and getting treatment, there is a lot that can complicate the process. Knowing the steps to navigate the health care system can be the difference between life and death.

In The Patient’s Playbook, I use my 30 years of experience to help patients achieve the best medical outcomes and institutions deliver high-quality health care. By learning from real-life success stories and easy, actionable strategies, patients can navigate their health care dilemmas with confidence.

In The Patient’s Playbook, I explain how to get to the No-Mistake Zone, the place where you feel completely confident about your major health care decisions.

As complex as the American health care system is, finding the No-Mistake Zone can involve a lot of independent research and legwork on the patient’s part. Fortunately, some institutions make it easy.

Washington Hospital, for instance, operates with a patient-first mentality. In fact, a key component of its mission is to provide appropriate employee, professional and community education resources to enhance patient care. I’ve personally worked with the health care system to help them develop their internal and external resources that actively help patients get to the point where they can make informed decisions. Here’s a link to a Community Forum I did with them on this very topic.

So, how do you know you’re in the No-Mistake Zone?

  1. Your diagnosis is specific and confirmed.

Diagnostic error accounts for an estimated 10 percent of deaths in the United States. Before you go down a treatment path, you want to get your diagnosis confirmed by an expert in your specific condition.

  1. You’re convinced about when and why you need to be treated.

Once you receive a confirmed diagnosis from a specialist, ask them how soon you need to begin treatment, and what happens if you delay treatment. Unless you need to act immediately, take the time to fully do your homework.

  1. You’ve explored and understand your treatment options.

In addition to meeting with specialists, it’s important to know as much as possible about your condition. Being your own best advocate means becoming a personal authority on your condition, knowing your treatment choices, and understanding the outcomes and effects of each option.

  1. You’ve met with experienced physicians who can administer your treatment at an institution that’s appropriate for the care you need.

To receive the best possible care with the best possible outcomes, it’s important that you choose a physician who has experience with your exact condition as well as the exact treatment you’re seeking. How do you know if they’re experienced? Ask! A conversation with your physician should never be one-way. You should feel comfortable enough with them to ask questions like, “How many times have you done this surgery or procedure?”

  1. You can visualize your treatment plan and how all the steps will be coordinated.

Once you’re comfortable with your diagnosis, options and timing, as well as the physician who will administer your treatment, you’ll have a clearer picture of what to expect from treatment and recovery. This way you can start making the appropriate arrangements, such as taking time off of work, finding an interim caretaker and coordinating transportation to future follow-up appointments. The goal is to minimize surprises when you’re least equipped to deal with them – like when you’re in pain or otherwise incapacitated during recovery.

  1. Your gut is telling you, “This is the treatment for me and this is the physician I want to carry it out.”

Once your brain has all of the information it needs to consider its options, that’s when your gut can step in and tell you to go for it. At the end of the day, being in the No-Mistake Zone means being confident enough to plot your course and prepared to travel the road to recovery.