Self-advocacy Tips

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Due to the above reasons, it’s best to have a trusted healthcare provider order your labs. If your doctor seems hesitant to order a specific test, here are a few self-advocacy and communication tips you can use:

  • Clearly explain to your doctor what test you want performed and why. Provide information to support your request. For example, a recent scientific article or evidence of a genetic connection, such as heightened risk of developing a disease due to a family member with a diagnosis.
  • Get a second opinion. It’s always your right to request a second opinion, and most doctors will support you in this action. Learn more.
  • Visit a doctor specializing in integrative medicine, functional medicine, or complementary medicine. These doctors may perform a wider array of tests to get at the underlying cause of a disease. Caution: insurance may not reimburse for tests deemed to be ‘medically unnecessary’.

And a few things to keep in mind:

When it comes to diagnostics, doctors are best. Testing and diagnostics is one area where western medical excels, and in which medical doctors are well trained. If you aren’t satisfied with your doctor’s diagnostic approach, try to start a discussion to understand more, before assuming you know which tests are best for you. The best way to be an effective self-advocate is to be an effective communicator.

Insurance may not cover all tests. There are several reasons an insurer may deny a claim for testing and diagnostics. You are more likely to pay out of pocket if your tests were not ordered by a medical doctor. If having any tests performed that were ordered by a complementary healthcare practitioner, or which you are ordering yourself, get the costs upfront.

Over testing is a problem. ‘Low-value’ care – tests or treatments that provide no value to patients and may even be harmful – is a real problem in the United States (see references below), costing billions of dollars and negatively impacting patients’ wallets, health and quality of lives. A doctor who declines to order a particular test may be doing so to protect the patient, not out of negligence.