The World Health Organization defines patient empowerment as “a process through which people gain greater control over decisions and actions affecting their health.” Becoming an empowered patient can help ensure you’re receiving quality treatments that are right for you and increase your chances of healing.
How can you become an empowered patient?
1. Be Informed
Do your research and educate yourself. MigraineMeanderings.com offers a variety of patient resources that can help you learn about migraine specifics and the various treatment options available. On social media there are migraine advocacy organizations, such as Hope for Migraine, which focus on evidence-based information about treatment options. These organizations often post about cutting-edge treatments as well as what is in the clinical pipeline. Also, keeping a headache diary can help you better understand your own personal type of migraine, triggers, frequency, etc. This will better prepare you to have an informed conversation with your healthcare provider.
2. Connect With Others
Joining online support groups reminds you that you are not alone and provides an opportunity to gain insights into what other patients are doing. They can help you know the right questions to ask and which options to research further, not to mention providing much-needed hope and encouragement.
3. Be Organized and Prepared
It’s a good idea to write out a list of things you want to discuss or inform your doctor of ahead of time and bring it to your appointment. This helps guide the conversation and ensure you won’t forget anything. Be sure to prioritize the list so that the most important items are first. You should also feel comfortable taking notes during a doctor’s visit so you can confidently remember key points about what was discussed. Check out tips for visiting a headache specialist for the first time here.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up
It’s perfectly okay to ask your doctor about specific treatments that he/she may not have mentioned yet. It’s also okay to question your doctor’s reasoning for what they are prescribing, and to ask not only about potential side effects but also what to do if you experience any of them. It may be helpful to print out the Migraine Treatment Toolbox and bring it with you to discuss.
5. Trust Your Instincts
Be open to your doctor’s treatment ideas, but if something doesn’t feel right, don’t let it get blown off. This happens sometimes if you feel you need additional testing or feel strongly that a specific treatment is or is not working or has intolerable side effects. If you feel strongly that something is off, trust your gut and advocate for yourself. You can also request a second opinion from another doctor locally or get a consultation through a virtual headache clinic such as Neura Health. If speaking up is hard for you, it may be helpful to ask a trusted family member to advocate on your behalf.
6. Find a Doctor You Can Depend On
The best way to become an empowered patient is to find a doctor who is willing to listen and work with you. This can take a long time and a lot of patience. Sometimes certain doctors are just not a good fit, and that’s okay. While it can be frustrating to start over with someone new, it may be an important part of your treatment and overall disease management. If there are no headache specialists in your area, consider checking out Neura Health which connects patients across the US with top neurology and certified headache specialists.
7. Share Your Story
When we share our stories we show others they are not alone. We also help raise awareness and understanding about migraine. You never know who is suffering with the same things you are, and hearing the steps you have taken can inspire them to become empowered patients as well!
Remember, you are your own best health advocate. Doctors are qualified professionals, but no one knows your body as well as you do. Take an active role in your health and treatment!