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The Engaged Patient

Find Safe, Decent Healthcare

Treat your relationship with your healthcare provider as one of the most important connections in your life, because for a long period of time, it will be.
October 2015 Vol 1 No 5
Elizabeth Franklin, MSW, ACSW
Executive Director, Cancer Policy Institute
Cancer Support Community
Mandi Pratt-Chapman, MA
Director, Institute for Patient-Centered Initiatives and Health Equity, and Associate Center Director, George Washington University Cancer Center, Washington, DC

Finding the right healthcare provider is a critical first step in your cancer care journey. Some patients may make a hasty decision because of fear, convenience, or frustration. This reaction makes sense—a cancer diagnosis can be scary and overwhelming, and you want to find someone to help you as quickly as possible. However, like most major relationships in our lives, our healthcare providers are an important part of our well-being. It’s important to find the right providers for you.

The following things are important to keep in mind when making decisions about your healthcare team.

Find a provider who responds to what is important to you. You will need to find a healthcare provider who is taking new patients. You probably want an oncologist who specializes in your type of cancer and who accepts your specific insurance.

But what else is most important to you? Do you want the doctor who is the foremost expert in your type of cancer? This may be important for rare cancers, but perhaps not as much for more common types.

Do you depend on public transportation and need your healthcare team to be easily accessible? Do you want an oncologist who calms your nerves, or one who answers all your questions directly? It is important to base your decisions on your own personal needs and preferences.

Compare providers. Cancer care can be complex and expensive, which is why one of the most important considerations for a patient is how to find the highest quality care at the best price. This can be challenging and time consuming; it requires research and problem-solving. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and to keep asking questions of your insurance company, billing departments, and healthcare team until you have the answers you need. It is vital that you have access to and understand all the relevant details about your care, including the price tag.

Establish a relationship with your healthcare team. Treat your relationship with your healthcare provider as one of the most important connections in your life, because for a long period of time, it will be. You need to feel comfortable enough to discuss intimate details about your health, and you need to trust that your provider will put your best interests first. Your doctors have a responsibility to help you, but you also have a responsibility to ensure that they have all the information they need to do their job to the best of their ability.

Seek the healthcare you need. If you’ve carefully selected your healthcare providers, you should be able to call on them when you have questions or concerns. You are not their only patient, and their time is limited, but if you’ve established a relationship with your healthcare team, they should be able to respond to you in a timely manner and offer the guidance you deserve. This can help to reduce your confusion or anxiety about your symptoms and help eliminate unnecessary visits to the emergency department.

Cancer care is a journey that requires planning and adjustment along the way. These suggestions will help you to chart your path toward creating a personalized health environment that fits your unique needs and preferences.

For daily news on how to be a prepared patient, follow us on Twitter @PreparedPatient.

Key Points

  • Find a healthcare team that responds to what is important to you
  • Compare providers to find high-quality care at the right cost
  • Establish a comfortable relationship with your healthcare team
  • Seek providers who will answer your phone calls and questions promptly

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Last modified: October 25, 2017

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