Use Your BRAIN to advocate for your healthcare

CHICOPEE, Mass. (Mass Appeal) – Being a healthy adult is more than just going to the doctor. It’s also about using our BRAIN to advocate for our own health. Michal Klau-Stevens, The Birth Lady joined us on Mass Appeal to share advice.

Each of us needs to take responsibility for our own healthcare today, but few of us are taught skills to help us do that. Learning how to get the information you need to make informed decisions is not as difficult as you might imagine, especially if you use your BRAIN.

Usually there is more than one possible approach when addressing healthcare concerns. In the case of maternity care, women are often healthy, and pregnancy is a normal physiologic process to experience. It is important to understand why a caregiver might want intervene to do a procedure, what is considered “standard of care,” what is ‘normal’, and what is not.

All patients have the right to informed consent and informed refusal, meaning the ultimate decision about what happens during their care lies with the patient. Doctors, midwives, and nurses are required to obtain informed consent before performing any procedures. They are obligated to provide information about the procedure, why they think it will be helpful, and what the benefits and risks are so that you can make an informed decision.
The reality of medical care today is that care providers often don’t have nearly enough time in their seven minute appointments to provide an adequate amount of information to ensure that you are fully informed to give true informed consent. Therefore, it falls on the patient to do research and ask the caregiver targeted questions to get the necessary information.

 BRAIN is an acronym that acts as a reminder for the questions to ask in order to get information about a healthcare procedure. It is one of the key tools that I teach in my classes so expectant parents can better navigate the maternity care system, and it works in most other healthcare settings too. Use this this tool with your care provider and in your own research. Make sure you are touching upon all this information, which you will need to make healthcare decisions and give informed consent or refusal to procedures.

B – Benefits What are the benefits?
R – Risks What are the risks?
A – Alternatives What are the alternatives?
I – Indications/Intuition What are the indications in my health for needing this procedure? What does my intuition tell me will be best for me?
N – Nothing What if we do nothing?

Ask to know ALL the benefits and All the risks of a procedure. Also ask which action is the care provider’s preference for how to proceed and why. Finally, ask good follow-up questions, such as “What are the actual numbers or statistics associated with success and failure rates of this procedure,” and “What happens if the procedure does not go as planned?” Ask, “What should I know about this that I haven’t yet asked or you haven’t yet told me?” The more information you know, the better you will be able to advocate for yourself in the healthcare setting.

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