10 Patient Empowerment Tips to Post on Your Refrigerator Door

The information center in many homes is the refrigerator door.  From family photos, to postcards to magnets from pizza shops, to phone numbers and kids’ artwork – the important ephemera of our lives can be found on refrigerator doors.

So today I thought I would share some advice that is worth cutting out and sticking to your refrigerator door – 10 empowerment tips that will keep you healthier and help you get the great medical care you deserve.

And if you like them, I invite you to download them (in the form of a small poster) to stick on your refrigerator door! (although – maybe you prefer to stick them on your bathroom mirror or medicine cabinet?  That’s OK too.)

  1. Become the expert in your own medical challenges. Read everything you can about your symptoms or diagnosis, ask questions, study anatomy, acquire and review copies of all your medical records. Be the authority on YOU.
  2. Using your YOU expertise, partner with your doctors and other providers. While they may have a medical education and experience, YOU are the one who has lived in your body your entire life.  Be an active participant on your own healthcare team. If your provider won’t listen to you, or share in your decision-making, then find one who will.
  3. Pursue a second opinionwhenever you are diagnosed with a difficult disease or condition, or surgery, chemo, or long term treatment are prescribed. And if they disagree?  Then seek a third.
  4. Don’t be afraid to say NO.  Sometimes less is more. As the authority on YOU, you’ll know when NO is the right answer.
  5. Thank your doctors and their staff members when they have been collaborative and helpful.  They work in a tough environment.  Appreciation, when appropriate, can go a long way toward strengthening your partnership.
  6. Read and listen past the headlines.  Get the whole story, then pursue additional, objective resources to confirm their veracity and to determine how well they apply to YOU. In particular, be sure Internet health  information is credible.
  7. Review your medical bills. Experts tell us that up to 80 percent of medical bills contain errors.  Incorrect bills will eventually cost us all in higher premiums and taxes.
  8. Provide support to others. Shared experiences can help others who suffer the same medical challenges you do.  Refer them to good doctors, and support groups, and offer an ear when they want to share their joys, or need to vent.
  9. Accept support from others. Whether it’s a loved one, or a professional, sometimes it’s imperative to have an advocate by your side to keep YOU safe, or keep you from being railroaded.
  10. Finally, wash your hands regularly and cough or sneeze into your elbow.  Infections are dangerous and deadly whether acquired during a hospital stay, or brought home from school by the kids.  Hygiene can go a long way toward keeping infection at bay and keeping YOU healthy.

Don’t forget – if you like these tips, you can print them out as a small refrigerator poster – here they are.


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3 thoughts on “10 Patient Empowerment Tips to Post on Your Refrigerator Door”

  1. Thanks, Trisha, for compiling this list and putting it into a nice compact format. Now if we can get many others to print it and use it, it would help a lot.

  2. Based on experience a second opinion is the most important. Not obtaining a second opinion had cost my wife 3 additional surgeries which could have been solved had we slowed down thought about our options before saying ok.

  3. This list of recommendations covers all the bases – from being an expert in your own health care to sneezing into your elbow! Very helpful, Trisha.

    I’d love to see a #11 tip added, however – and that involves personal responsibility for making lifestyle changes to improve your odds of recovery. For example, I’ve written frequently about the research of German cardiologist Dr. Rainer Hambrecht, who has been saying for years that regular exercise shows better outcomes for heart patients compared to implanting cardiac stents. Yet he concludes:

    “Patients are not motivated to take responsibility for improving their own cardiovascular health – even if it means better event-free survival.”

    Empowerment must extend to patients being accountable for doing what needs to be done to maintain and improve their own health.

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Trisha Torrey
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