One thing the pandemics of COVID-19 and racial inequities within the medical system have
taught us is that the general public must make their health a priority. Taking an active role in
one’s health not only empowers an individual but also communities and generations. As a
physician I have realized that by just taking a few key steps before and during an encounter with
a healthcare provider, patients can take a pivotal role in managing their care.
During a hospital stay it is important to know the Patient Bill of Rights. Introduced by the
American Hospital Association in the 1970s this document indicates the expectations and
guarantees one should have when hospitalized. Key points include the right to treatment
regardless of race, age, gender identity, or source of payment. It is also comprised of the right to
refuse medication or treatment with the explanation of medical consequences. Another important
point is the right to know the names of every individual involved in your care as well as privacy
and confidentiality regarding your diagnosis and treatment. Of note, patients also have a right to
their medical records (sometimes at a small fee) and to language services like an interpreter. The
Patient Bill of Rights is available for viewing within the hospital and can be provided upon
As the old adage states, knowledge is power and that holds true in the medical setting. Knowing
everything about your medical history limits questioning and confusion which may come up
during medical management. What does your blood pressure usually run? What surgeries have
you had in the past? What allergies are you aware of and what are the reactions you experience?
What is the dosage of your medication and how many times a day do you take it? Knowing this
and other vital information not only helps you stay informed but aids the provider in giving
From medication side effects to lifestyle changes that can improve health, everything should be
reviewed on your primary care office visits. Writing downs questions or thoughts prior to your
appointment will help you clearly discuss any concerns you may have. Also ask about legitimate
sources of information (i.e. websites) where you can learn more about your medical condition
and general well-being. Having an advocate with you during an office visit; someone you are
comfortable discussing your medical health in front of, can also be of benefit. They may be able
to describe symptoms you don’t realize you have or express issues you are unable to discuss.
Next, do not be afraid to share your concerns. If you do not understand what is being said ask for
things be reexplained in a clearer way. At times clinicians can use medical jargon which many
are unfamiliar with. It is better to speak up and say you do not understand than to walk away
from an appointment without an idea of what is going on with your health.
Lastly, realize that it is ok to change providers. You do not need to stay with the same doctor if
you feel you aren’t receiving adequate or sufficient care, are worried your concerns are not being
addressed, or are having issues with communication. You know your body better than anyone so
if you feel it is time to move on, listen to your intuition.