11 Ways To Be A Proactive Patient


6th November 2015

By Lissa Rankin, MD

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

As I wrote about here, too many patients hand the power of their health over to physicians who they believe will fix them, and then if the doctor fails to cure what ails them, they get frustrated and feel like helpless victims of bad luck or bad genes.

But studies show that being proactive about your health not only results in better health care; it also strengthens your body’s natural self-repair mechanisms and helps your body fend off illness.

Your body is your business!  Even though most of us doctors went to school for over a decade, ostensibly so we’d know your body better than you do, nobody knows what’s best for your body, mind, and soul as much as you do. Your body is your business because you are the gatekeeper of your mind, and it’s your responsibility to protect your body from the poisonous effect toxic thoughts, beliefs, and feelings have on your body’s physiology.

There are many ways you can be an empowered patient, but here are a few tips for taking the power of your health back into your own hands.

1. Guard your mind and reject negative health beliefs.

Just because your doctor tells you there’s only a 10% chance you’ll get better doesn’t mean you have to think like a pessimist and look at the glass as 9/10 empty. Reframe the numbers and focus on the fact that 10% of people with your disease get well – and for the 10% who do, the other 90% don’t matter.  Remember that those positive health outcomes aren’t just flukes. Those who get well against all odds share common proactive characteristics. (To learn 6 scientifically proven proactive things people with stage 4 cancer who experience spontaneous remission share, read Mind Over Medicine.)

2. Avoid toxic situations when possible.

If you feel like a victim– of an abusive childhood, a toxic marriage, a soul-sucking job, a demeaning boss, a bankruptcy, or whatever- find a way to reclaim your power. Dig deep within and call upon the strength you’ll need to make healthy changes in your life, even if it means financial loss, loss of status, disappointing others, or other undesired consequences that may accompany extricating yourself from mind-poisoning circumstances. If you can’t change your circumstance, you still have the power to change your attitude.

3. Don’t be afraid to question your doctor.

Remember, medicine is a service industry. If you didn’t feel like your car was in the very best hands possible, you’d find another auto mechanic. Proactive patients- the ones who have the best health outcomes- don’t hesitate to ask their doctors questions, get second opinions, and switch health care providers if the fit isn’t right.

For example, when your doctor makes a diagnosis, ask your doctor, “What else could it be?” Every doctor should have what’s called a “differential diagnosis,” and sometimes asking your doctor to expand the scope of what your diagnosis could be can leapfrog you to optimal health sooner.

4. Be the conscientious gatekeeper of your mind.

You may not be able to perform your own surgery or prescribe your own drugs, but your body is your business because you are the gatekeeper of your thoughts, beliefs, and feelings. It’s your responsibility to make sure you cut back on stress responses in the body and activate relaxation responses so that instead of poisoning your body with the side effects of toxic thoughts, your mind is full of love, hope, optimism, passion, joy, pleasure, creativity, and a sense of purpose- all of which have been scientifically proven to heal the body.

5. Listen to your intuition.

You have within you the voice of what I call your “Inner Pilot Light”, and this voice serves as your own personal physician. When addressing issues that are affecting your life, especially those that may be harming your health, your inner doctor is on call 24/7 to help you make the right decisions that help you heal.

6. Do your homework.

Some doctors let their egos interfere with optimal patient care, and it’s possible that you actually know more about your disease than your doctor does. (This is especially true if your disease is rare or if you have been researching your illness personally.)  The reality is that the more informed you are about the options for treatment of your health condition, the better care you’ll get.

7. Keep your own medical record.

Ask for copies of all lab tests, radiology reports, and doctor’s notes. Having all of your health information in your own hot little hands can help expedite communication between your health care providers so you’re not dependent on someone who takes a week to fax your records when you need them now.

8. Talk to other patients who share your diagnosis.

The internet has made it easier than ever to find others who are dealing with the same conditions you are. You just might meet someone on a forum who share with you treatment options that are just what the doctor ordered. But be cautious. The internet is also rife with misinformation. Gather information, but don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

9. Be the squeaky wheel.

If you’re leaving messages with your doctor and not getting your needs met, call back- respectfully but often. If your insurance company is denying your claim, appeal the decision! It shouldn’t be this way, but the old adage “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” is definitely true when it comes to navigating our broken health care system.

10. Make a list.

If you have questions for your doctor or issues you want to be sure get addressed, make a list and let your doctor know you have a list of issues. Your doctor may ask you to choose only the top priorities on your list, if time is too limited, but if you don’t get all your issues addressed, make a second appointment so all your needs are met.

11. If you’re not sure what to do, ask for more time.

If you feel like your doctor is pressuring you to make a decision you’re not ready to make, ask for time. If you’re in the middle of having a heart attack or stroke, or if you’ve been in a car accident and need surgery, time may be of the essence. But for the majority of treatments, even when you’re dealing with something potentially lethal like cancer, it rarely hurts to wait a few days- or even a few weeks- until you’re comfortable you’re making the right decision- for YOU.

Remember, Your Body Is Your Business!

How are you a proactive patient? Tell us your stories in the comments.

Previous articles by Lissa Rankin:

About the author:

Lissa Rankin MD, Wake Up World bioLissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and healthcare providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself & The Fear Cure. She is on a grass roots mission to heal healthcare, while empowering you to heal yourself.

Lissa blogs at LissaRankin.com and also created two online communities – HealHealthCareNow.com and OwningPink.com. She is also the author of two other books, a speaker, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.

Connect with Lissa on Facebook and Twitter, or visit LissaRankin.com


If you've ever found value in our articles, we'd greatly appreciate your support by purchasing Mindful Meditation Techniques for Kids - A Practical Guide for Adults to Empower Kids with the Gift of Inner Peace and Resilience for Life.

In the spirit of mindfulness, we encourage you to choose the paperback version. Delve into its pages away from screen glare and notifications, allowing yourself to fully immerse in the transformative practices within. The physical book enriches the learning process and serves as a tangible commitment to mindfulness, easily shared among family and friends.

Over the past few years, Wake Up World has faced significant online censorship, impacting our financial ability to stay online. Instead of soliciting donations, we're exploring win-win solutions with our readers to remain financially viable. Moving into book publishing, we hope to secure ongoing funds to continue our mission. With over 8,500 articles published in the past 13 years, we are committed to keeping our content free and accessible to everyone, without resorting to a paywall.