How to Advocate for Yourself in a Hospital

Experts share information about how to become an empowered patient and receive better health outcomes.

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U.S. News released its 24th annual Best Hospitals rankings this summer, highlighting the nation's top hospitals. But choosing a hospital is only the first step toward a positive health care experience. Patients should also be prepared to take charge of their own health care decision-making, to the extent that they can, supported by doctors and other caregivers. But many people fear that they lack the knowledge or confidence to manage their own care. To help provide guidance, U.S. News turned to top patient empowerment experts: the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Patient Safety Foundation and the Patient Advocate Foundation. Individual experts included Elizabeth Cohen, CNN senior medical correspondent; Trisha Torrey, patient advocate and founder of AdvoConnection; and Ted Eytan, director at Kaiser Permanente, in the Permanente Federation, LLC.

They offered scores of helpful tips, noting that close relatives or friends can help tremendously by attending to their loved ones during hospital stays and accompanying them during medical encounters. At emotional moments, they said, a relative or close friend can provide support, ask questions and take notes. Whenever possible, patients should come to medical encounters armed with information about their condition or treatment. Knowing which questions to ask, they said, not only helps to patients at ease, but it may save their lives.

The chat's 263 participants, including members of the U.S. News health rankings team, sent nearly 1,380 tweets during the course of the discussion.