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Taking Charge of Your Own Healthcare

7 Steps for Improving Your Healthcare

Here are some ways to work with your care providers so that you get good care:

  • Be your own case manager. To get the maximum benefit from health care providers, we each need to learn to be our own case manager. When we become an active member of our own health care team, we are less likely to become depressed or anxious and we are more likely to get better. An essential factor in our resiliency is our ability to engage with the problem.
  • Keep a record of your appointments. When things get complicated, it helps to write things down. Keep a record of appointments and what occurred at each one. Note what the doctor wants you to do. Write down medication names and dosages.
  • Keep a daily log. When you are feeling sick, it is difficult to remember that today is still better than yesterday. Write down your symptoms and how they change from day to day. Keep track of when you take your medications and how they affect you. You might also want to track your eating and sleeping. This information can help your doctor see patterns of symptoms and reactions over time.
  • Stay focused at appointments. Put your questions and comments on a notecard or piece of paper so that you can stay focused during your appointment. This will help ensure that you will use your time well when you are with your care provider.
  • Take a friend with you to appointments. Sometimes, when we hurt so much or are so afraid, it is difficult to hear. It’s a good idea to have someone else at appointments who can listen, take notes, and help you remember the questions you wanted to ask.
  • Remember that you and your care provider are on the same team. Yes, they are busy. Yes, it is frustrating when they don’t seem on top of things. But they are still your primary source of information. Doctors are human, too. If you vent your anger or state concerns in a challenging way, you aren’t going to get the caring response you want. State your concerns as questions. Ask your providers to help you understand.
  • Follow the treatment plan. Once you and your doctors have decided on a course of treatment, give it a fair chance. Many medications take a number of days to reach a therapeutic level. You may not be able to control your illness but you can control how you are handling it. In general, follow the advice of the people you are paying to give you advice. Even if you don’t get the results you want in a few days, you will then know that the failure is due to the treatment plan, not to your unwillingness to follow that plan.

As we talked about how to be a more effective advocate for her own health care, my client visibly relaxed. She realized that she had been feeling quite helpless in the face of the complexity and sheer number of interactions with doctors that had occurred in the past few weeks. Having some ideas about how to be a better advocate for herself helped her feel more in control of the situation. Having accomplished that, we could move to working on pain management skills.

Taking Charge of Your Own Healthcare

Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.

Marie Hartwell-WalkerDr. Marie Hartwell-Walker is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. She writes regularly for Psych Central as well as Psych Central's Ask the Therapist feature. She is author of the insightful parenting e-book, Tending the Family Heart.

Check out her book, Unlocking the Secrets of Self-Esteem.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, M. (2020). Taking Charge of Your Own Healthcare. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 14 Jan 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 14 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.