5 Strategies for Better Patient Advocacy

None of us make it through our lifetime without requiring medical care. Even if you were the unicorn that lived a full life without an injury, illness, or sore tooth, someone you know will require care. And whether it is you, a family member, or a friend, it’s important to understand how to be an advocate throughout the process. Because the importance of patient advocacy lies in its ability to enhance outcomes during medical care.

What is Patient Advocacy?

In the traditional sense of the word, patient advocates are people or organizations that interface with medical facilities, medical professionals, and even insurance companies on the behalf of patients. Patient advocates can assists with complicated decisions, such as insurance claims, tests, and procedures. Though there are professional patient advocacy providers, a family member, friend, or spouse can also fill this role.

How to Be a Patient Advocate for Yourself or a Family Member

When going through an injury or illness, it is easy to take all the information you receive from doctors and nurses as gospel. The experience can be overwhelming, after all. Yet inefficiencies, mistakes, and oversights do happen, especially when you consider the volume of patients that a given medical practitioner sees in a given day. And there are plenty of opportunities for patients or their advocates to provide context, additional information, and timely decision making to help facilitate better outcomes.

Here are five strategies to be a better patient advocate:

  • Ask questions – A lot of them. Resist the tendency to just go through the motions. Instead, ask nurses, doctors, therapists, and other medical staff about timelines, medications, procedures and test results.

  • Take notes – There is nothing wrong with taking notes while meeting with medical professionals. The volume of information around medication, treatment outlooks, and therapy recommendations can be overwhelming. Take notes and be sure to add timestamps so you can reference your notes later.

  • Do your research – Find credible information from reputable sources about conditions, illnesses, and injuries. This can help you ask informed questions and be realistic about treatment.

  • Lean on your support system – For some odd reason, people tend to shoulder burdens alone in times of need. It’s important to include family and friends during treatment, recovery, or rehabilitation. It introduces new perspectives on the matter and helps avoid burnout.

  • Be honest – The more that your physician, physical therapist, or nurse knows, the better equipped they are to provide accurate and effective care. Give them complete and accurate information whenever you can.

Good patient advocates ask not just what the physician’s objectives are for treatment—or what they recommend—but ask themselves what their own objectives and goals are. If you are advocating for yourself, say your objectives out loud. Write them down. Have a working understanding of these goals so that you can communicate them to your physician or physical therapist when the time comes.

Remember: physicians, physical therapists, and other medical professionals—though highly trained and talented—are not mind readers. They too benefit from an informed and engaged patient advocate.  

How to Warm Up Like a Professional Runner

Whether you’re a casual runner or an aspiring professional, it’s important to warm up before you run. A good warm up is one of the most overlooked elements of a well-rounded exercise regimen. Here’s a closer look at how professional runners warm up. We encourage you to borrow tips for your own warm-up routine, no matter what kind of exercise you are doing.

Why Warm Up Before You Run?

We like to think of it as priming the pump. You simply cannot expect to perform optimally without getting the blood flowing and loosening up the muscles. This is especially true if you are competing, or getting serious about improving running times. Indeed, a good warm up can help:

  • Focus the mind
  • Prevent injury
  • Improve performance
  • Increase longevity

A Few Tips on How to Warm Up Like a Professional

Whether you are a professional, amateur, or casual runner, applying the following three principles will enhance the efficacy of your warm-up. They will give it structure and give you room to tailor the warm-up to your specific exercise or sport.

  1. Don’t Rush It – When preparing for longer distance events, some professionals will spend the good part of an hour warming up. Though this might be overkill for the casual enthusiast, it’s still important to build enough time into your own runs—however long they are—to allow for an adequate warm-up.

  2. Walk or Jog Lightly – Give it about five or ten minutes to get the blood flowing. As an alternative, you can jump on a treadmill or stationary bike, or complete a five- or ten-minute jump roping routine.

  3. Keep it Dynamic – The dynamic warm up has grown rather ubiquitous in recent years. You’ll find it on football fields, track and field events, even swim meets. The dynamic warm-up is designed to target the muscles used during a specific sport or exercise. Runner’s World has a great dynamic warm-up routine on their website.

 

Bonus tip: Don’t forget the cool down! A good cool down routine after the workout can help prevent soreness and stiffness the next day and aid your body’s recovery processes. It’s also one of the most oft-overlooked elements of a running or exercise routine.

New Study Shows Exercise Improves Heart Health in Cancer Patients

Despite the immense challenges that cancer represents to both patients and medical professionals, it’s comforting to know that cancer research continues to make great strides. Naturally, our ears perked up when a new study from the the Journal of Clinical Oncology hit our inboxes. The study links exercise to improved cardiorespiratory fitness in adult patients suffering from cancer.

Though this might seem like a self-evident revelation (we already know, for instance, that sedentary lifestyles can increase the risk of diseases like cancer), there is more here than meets the eye. As Medpage points out in their analysis of the study, “up to 80% [of patients with adult onset cancer] have significant impairment in peak oxygen consumption.”

Indeed, diminished cardiovascular function is common among cancer patients. And according to the American Cancer Society, cancer-related fatigue is also quite common, often due in part to the decline in heart health that typically accompanies many types of cancer.

It’s a problem that tends to compound upon itself. More challenging still is that fact that, even though cancer patients find it difficult to exercise due to cancer-related fatigue, this new research suggests that exercise is key to improving heart health in cancer patients.

So where does that leave us?

To begin with, it is important for cancer patients to find the right environment to enable safe and productive exercise. This includes finding the right tools to support healthy cardiovascular exercise, of which there are a number of encouraging examples.

In a pilot study documented in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, for example, low-impact cardiovascular exercise on the AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ was shown to improve cardiovascular conditioning and health for breast cancer survivors. In its recommendations for exercise as part of cancer treatment, Harvard Health recommends “referral to an accredited exercise physiologist and/or physical therapist.”

Though specific exercise recommendations will vary from patient to patient, this new study from Journal of Oncology is significant for a number of reasons. For medical professionals, the study supports the role of exercise in improving cardiovascular health for cancer patients. For those cancer patients suffering from cardiovascular decline, the study offers a potential path to regaining some function, quality of life, and overall health.

And for the rest of the world, this new study indicates that finding links between cardiovascular fitness in cancer patients and exercise remains a priority for cancer researchers across the country.

That is welcome news.