Be an active participant in your health care

Research & Insights

How to be your own health advocate

How being an active participant in your health care can help you live a longer, healthier life.

People who act as their own ‘health advocate’ – are more likely to live healthier and longer lives, according to a report by the Australian Health Policy Collaboration.

GP Dr Ryan Harvey agrees: “At the end of the day it’s your body, and you’re ultimately responsible for your own health. This is why it’s important to be your own health advocate. No one should care more about your health outcomes than you.”

Other than following general health recommendations, such as eating a balanced diet, exercising for at least 30 minutes a day and getting plenty of sleep and rest, there are other ways you can self care.

Do your research

Many of us use Google to search for a medical diagnosis, even when it isn’t recommended. And while it means we’re taking a proactive interest in our health, it’s important to know that the internet can be a helpful resource, but not all sites can be trusted.

“The problem is, there’s almost as much misinformation on the internet as good quality information,” says Dr Harvey.

“Your specialist or GP will be more than happy to point you in the right direction in terms of correct useful information specific to your problem.”

There are some trusted health websites that can help prompt the right conversations with your doctor, if you use them correctly. These trusted sources include government health bodies or departments such as Health Direct or the World Health Organisation

Speak up

For your GP to help you, you need to give them a full picture of your health. Tell them all your symptoms and be honest about your lifestyle and health habits. This way your GP will have all the facts, says Dr Harvey.

Don’t be afraid to speak up if you’re not clear on what the doctor is saying, or you’re concerned about the tests or treatments they’re recommending.

“If you’re unsure what to do, or what the plan is at the end of the consultation, seek clarification from the doctor,” he says.

If you’re unhappy with the treatment you’ve received, speak to your treating doctor about your concerns. You may also wish to seek a second opinion from another doctor.

Ask questions

When you make an appointment with a health professional, take the time to write a list of questions you’d like help with.

Some questions to consider at your next GP or specialist appointment may include: 

  • what treatment do I need?
  • how long do I have to take a prescribed medicine?
  • are there any risks or side effects?
  • do I need to see any other health professionals?
  • will I need any tests?
  • is there anything I can do to help my recovery?

Take notes

When a doctor gives you information about a possible diagnosis, tests or treatments, listen closely and take notes to help you remember what they’ve said.

Keep your notes safe, so if you’re referred to another specialist, or for further treatment, you have your history of symptoms and medications.

Talk money

It’s important to find out all fees and charges for any treatments, medicines or procedures you may need. Ask your healthcare provider or their receptionist to give you a breakdown of the costs in writing.

Find out more about doctor’s costs.

Words by Charmaine Yabsley
Updated September 2021


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