How To Be Your Own Health Advocate

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., ACCESS Media Relations Specialist
March 7, 2018


While hospitals and other health care providers have the best intentions, errors do occur. According to a recent national survey, one in five people reportedly experienced a medical error while receiving care. Of those, only half spoke up about it. ACCESS is committed to patient safety. We want people to know it’s important to be your own advocate and speak up if you feel something is wrong. Bringing attention to an issue may prevent an error. It can also fix the problem, so it doesn’t happen to someone else. Here are some steps you can take to help ensure you stay safe when you receive care. 

Speak up. Many people fear they will be considered ‘difficult,’ so they don’t speak up. However, doctors and nurses want patients to be engaged in their care. Ask the questions. Make sure your concerns are addressed. Repeat what you’ve heard to make sure you have understood what your provider has told you.  

Write everything down. A lot of information is shared during a doctor’s visit, so it’s helpful to bring a notebook. That way you can focus on what your physician is saying, instead of trying to remember everything. Even before your visit, take a minute to jot down questions you want to be sure to ask.     

Bring someone with you. For important visits, like receiving test results or a diagnosis, have a friend or family member join you. Not only will they provide another set of ears, they can speak up for you or remember to ask questions on your behalf.

Check your medical records. Many health providers offer online portals or apps that allow patients to access their records and have more control over their health. Viewing your records will allow you to see what your physician sees and ensure the information is correct. Some providers like ACCESS have online portals like ACCESS’ myACCESSHEALTH that provides helpful tools like prescription refill requests, or the ability to message your care team with questions. If you’re not sure how to access your health records, ask your care team.

At ACCESS, our doctors and nurses do their best to make sure patients get the best care possible. But it’s also important for patients to be active and engaged in their care. Remember to be your own advocate and keep these tips in mind. To schedule an appointment at ACCESS, click here



United for Patient Safety  

Consumer Reports: The Surprising Way to Stay Healthy in the Hospital

Chicago Tribune: Tips on How to Become a Health Advocate