Imagine a room full of 100 women and the question is asked: Have you had an experience where you felt your voice was not heard at a healthcare visit? Every single hand in the audience would be raised. If we take this question and ask female physicians and nurses, they also concur that other providers do not listen to them when seen as patients. Consider complex new factors, such as virtual patient visits – the situation becomes even more challenging for women's voices to truly be heard when they attend a healthcare appointment.
It is important to highlight the unique challenges we face when it comes to women's health. The goal of this article is to help improve health outcomes for all women, especially those who may also experience racial or age bias when seeking medical care. Here are six actions you can take before, during, and after your next doctor's visit to achieve a better health outcome.
1. Prepare In Advance For Your Visit
This means not only researching the physician, their office, and reviews, but also understanding how they communicate with patients. Many health systems provide videos of physicians talking about how they care for their patients. Decide if their approach coincides with how you want to be treated. If you don't have the luxury of living in an area with many physician choices, or there aren't any videos of the doctor, you can ask the staff: ‘How is this doctor with their patients?' The answer may surprise you.
2. Create a Symptom List
Doctors are looking to know as much as possible about your condition. Women sometimes discount when something is wrong and will even say…”it's nothing.” Having a symptom list written in advance of your appointment will help you communicate all the things you are experiencing so the healthcare professional can offer their best care.
3. Communicate Expectations
When you start your visit, virtual or in person, express your hope for a real health outcome. You can start by saying something like “I came prepared to this appointment with information that will help discover and diagnose my problem. My hope (or expectation ) is to work together to find answers.”
4. Follow Up After Your Tests
If you are having any tests, find out when the results will be ready and mark it on your calendar. Ask how the information will be communicated – is it mailed, a phone call, or will it be uploaded into the office or health system app? Be sure to ask if the office has a health app, so that you can easily access it. There is often tech help if you aren't sure how to log in for the first time.
5. Don't Be Afraid To Ask For An Explanation
It can be overwhelming looking at the results from an MRI or bloodwork. If a nurse or healthcare professional calls and says everything looked normal, and you still have symptoms, ask for a copy of the results that show the normal range and your range for the results. If you need help understanding what the results mean, make an appointment to review them with your provider – even if they “seem” normal.
6. Be Vigilant About Your Health
Finding a solution can take time, sometimes longer than we want, but trust your instincts – it is out there. If you are having trouble getting answers, there are often support groups on Facebook and foundations for the illness where you can get advice from other patients. If you have symptoms, they are real, not in your head, and you deserve to find answers.
As we think about advancing health equity, we need to remember that Women's Health Matters. Achieving better health outcomes will happen when providers have empathy, express understanding and most importantly truly listen.
Our mission is to empower & support women in all areas of their lives. Our advisory circle & networking platform HerCsuite™ was created with that purpose in mind. Our platform provides a simplified experience for women leaders so that they can find support, coaching, and connections that enable them to meet, engage, & thrive. It has everything you need,all in one place, accessible on any device.
For more leadership strategies, expert insights, and women empowerment, connect with me on Linkedin.
Natalie founded Herpower2 Lead to create products that empower women to make lasting impacts today and into the future. She takes a ‘serve first’ approach to life and has applied this principle throughout her career, serving in leadership positions in business as well as non-profit organizations.
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