How can you ensure that you receive the best medical care possible? — by becoming an advocate for your health and wellbeing.

Visiting a doctor can be both confusing and intimidating — all too often patients report feeling rushed during their appointments and being afraid to ask ‘stupid questions’. It can seem easier to go along with an appointment than interrupting a doctor or healthcare professional when we do not understand what is happening or what is being said — we don’t want to feel like we are wasting anyone’s time. Yet, if we don’t fully understand our diagnosis or a prescribed treatment plan, are we not putting our health at risk?

Consider a diagnosis for Type II Diabetes, a disease that affects tens of millions of Americans each year. If your doctor does not explain what low blood sugar means or what insulin does, you likely won’t understand how to take your medication and manage your disease effectively. Worst of all, you run the risk of making your disease worse, or even fatal.

Being an advocate means arming yourself with information and questions before you arrive at your appointment. Be specific with your doctor about the symptoms you are experiencing and the ways in which you have been treating them, including all over the counter medications or supplements. Don’t be afraid to mention other symptoms that you think are unrelated — the more information your doctor has, the better able they are to make an accurate diagnosis.

Bring a list of questions with you and a means for writing down answers — better yet, bring a copy of your questions and insist that your doctor take the time to go through them with you. Repeat what your doctor says back to them to ensure there are no misunderstandings. When it comes to your health and wellness, remember — there are no stupid questions.

Being an advocate for your health and wellness should extend beyond your doctor’s office to including your health insurance company. Make no assumptions about what is covered without speaking to them directly — understand what is covered and what isn’t, to include any co-pays or co-insurances you may be responsible for. It is especially important to do this before a health emergency occurs — you could be facing a mountain of debt all because you made the mistake of going to the wrong emergency room.

Despite your best efforts to be prepared for a doctor’s visit, it can still be difficult to receive and understand all of the information you need to be fully informed. In that case, bring a loved one with you — having an extra advocate at your side can ensure you ask the questions and receive the answers you need. And always remember, if you are feeling unsure about a diagnosis or a treatment plan — or if you feel that your doctor isn’t taking the time to make you confidently informed about either — never hesitate to get a second opinion.

Dr. Ann Lebeck is a physician and the owner of Kynetic Health — a clinic in Sierra Vista that specializes in Sports and Regenerative Medicine.