At Precision Performance & PT, we often speak of patient advocacy. For us, that means
speaking and championing conversations and change on your behalf to other providers. It
means listening to your concerns, your goals, and your values to create a comprehensive
treatment plan that is individualized and specific. We encourage your input, and often require
it, for the formation of goals and what is truly important to you. We pride ourselves on looking
at your entire medical history, your current health state, and your future functional goals.
As a patient myself, I have recently had an experience in the healthcare system that I wish to
share. I have been dealing with some stomach and gut problems for some time now, and was
seeing multiple providers to try to fix the issues. A few months ago I went to visit a
gastrointestinal provider for a consultation regarding my symptoms. My visit entailed a basic
(<2 min) discussion of my symptoms, an incredibly basic stomach-pressing evaluation, and a
recommendation to start on two medications. When I asked why the medications were being
used, and for what purpose, I was answered with “well we are going to see if these help and if
they don’t we will do an endoscopy”. Now, I’m the first to admit that while I would love a
definite diagnosis every time I go to the doctor, I am all too aware that this is simply not
possible for the majority of cases. Often, medicine utilizes some basic trial and error to alleviate
symptoms in the absence of a clear and definite diagnosis. So, frustrated with my lack of
progress so far with my symptoms I just agreed and started taking the medication.
Thankfully, the medication helped! My symptoms slowly receded and I was able to get back to
a mostly normal daily life over the next 6 weeks. However, I also knew that I needed to taper
off of these medications at this point and started the process. Once I began this process, my
symptoms slowly started to creep back in. Much to my frustration, it appeared I was going back
to baseline and had nothing new to show for it. I remained frustrated once off the medications
because I had no idea where to turn next. I knew that I did not want to have an endoscopy just
for the sake of “seeing what’s in there”. So, I just waited.
Then, one day, my wife and I were talking about a medical case she is treating. This medical
case involved the administration of a medication to the heel of the foot for an off-label use.
Coincidentally, I take this exact medication for prevention of severe migraines. On a whim, I
decided to do a basic search for side effects of this medication. What I found shocked me. Right
in front of me there on the screen were numerous studies proclaiming stomach and GI side-
effects for this medication. A medication that I have taken for over a decade. To make an
already long story shorter, I changed when I took this medication in my day, and it has
drastically changed my symptoms and I am feeling significantly better.
Why was this realization such a shock? Because none of my healthcare providers had asked
about the only medication I was taking. Not a one considered that this medication could be
causing my problems. But the research was there!
Why do I tell you this story? Certainly not to rag on other healthcare providers and say that I do
things better because I pay attention to details. Not at all. All healthcare providers are human
and fallible. We also have bad days. I tell you this story to illustrate the point that if my wife and
I had not investigated what appeared to be a non-factor, I would still be dealing with stomach
issues. There is a lesson in here for us.
As the patient, you are the best advocate for your own health and well-being. You know your
body and your medical history better than anyone. You know how you feel after doing activity X
or activity Y, and you know when you take your medications and how your body responds. You
have the extended-edition of your life right there in your head. Use this to your advantage.
We often expect healthcare providers to have all the answers and to give us quick and
confident solutions. But, we providers are also human. Your best treatment involves a team
effort between you and I. My medical knowledge and expertise and your self-expertise create
the perfect team. Notice that I am not asking you to be a WebMD expert and to come to me
with your problems already solved!
Here are some tips for being your own self advocate:
- Come to your appointment prepared with a concise and cohesive medical history
- Consider all parts of your life: medication, sleep, history, diet, family history
- Engage in a dialogue and conversation with your provider
- Ask TONS of questions. If your provider doesn’t have time for these questions, it’s time
to go somewhere else. You deserve more than a 5-minute appointment.
- Discuss your concerns and keep the big picture in mind
- Continue the dialogue and analysis once your appointment is done. Medicine is a
process – not an instant fix.
- Ask for help! If you need someone else to jump in on your care, don’t be afraid to do so.
I hope this blog has helped you to see the benefits to self-advocacy, and that we can continue
to improve your life through collaboration.
See you next time,