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How To Be Your Own Healthcare Advocate After a Bike Crash

There’s no question that the healthcare system is an intimidating place. Between medical jargon you’re not familiar with and administrative hoops to jump through, it’s easy to become completely overwhelmed. But being an advocate for yourself or a loved one after experiencing a bicycle crash can make a big difference in getting the right care and making the best possible recovery.

As cycling popularity grows, more people visit an emergency room every year for a bicycle-related injury. Many of those are traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). From 2009 to 2018, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention counted nearly 600,000 emergency room visits across the nation for a bicycle-related TBI. Even instances where an injury is portrayed as “mild” or “minor” can be reason to advocate for yourself.

For example, many mild TBIs (also commonly called concussions) will have symptoms that clear up in a few weeks or months, but mild TBIs can also result in permanent symptoms and impacts to a person’s quality of life, especially if the person is misdiagnosed (which happens frequently in busy emergency rooms or with health care professionals that don’t specialize in brain injuries). This is why a “mild TBI” is mostly a misnomer.

Mental health issues, such as anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can also linger after a bike crash and interfere with daily life.

Being your own healthcare advocate after a bike crash might seem daunting, but there are a few easy ways you can prepare yourself so that you get the treatment you need, especially in settings that are under-resourced or over-burdened.

Ask Questions

It takes doctors many, many years of education to reach the point of treating patients, so don’t feel discouraged for not understanding different aspects of your care. When it comes to your health and recovery, there is no such thing as a stupid question. Afterall, bike-related injuries can be complicated, especially when the brain is impacted.

Even if it feels awkward, keep asking questions until you understand. It’s okay to ask your medical team to elaborate or refrain from using medical jargon. Most medical professionals are happy to break down hard-to-understand diagnoses, medication or other treatments. You may also have access to a staff member who can help you navigate multiple options of care.

You can also ask your doctor or medical provider where to turn for more information or resources. They can give you the most reliable, trustworthy source for information related to your injury and recovery. If you are researching on your own, try to keep track of where you are gathering information. This can help your doctor determine whether what you’re reading is accurate.

Finally, keep a running list of questions that pop up in between check-ins. Recovering from an injury is stressful and this will ensure that you don’t lose track of the questions you have. If something feels urgent, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor or their staff immediately.

Be Heard

Communication is one of the most important aspects of healthcare, so it’s important that you feel like you’re being heard. If you’re asking questions and you feel like you’re not getting an answer or you’re being misunderstood, don’t give up or stay quiet.

Remember to keep track of symptoms, medications and questions. It’s important to be specific. This can help make sure you’re having a conversation with your doctor and can better inform them about your care.

Women and people of color are especially likely to be written off in medical settings. This can lead to misdiagnosis or more complicated care later on. Trust your gut when something doesn’t feel right and make it known to your healthcare provider. You can ask them to document your requests so that there is evidence later on that you raised specific concerns.

Being your own advocate not only can lead to increased care, but it gives you, the patient, a sense of confidence and control over your treatment. In stressful medical scenarios, consider bringing somebody along who you trust that is a good listener or can take notes during the session. It can be a lot to manage a consultation or appointment, ask questions and consider treatment plans. Having somebody else with you might help give you the courage to ask questions or request more information.

Asking for a Second Opinion

It doesn’t always feel necessary, but if you’re facing a complicated injury with a long recovery, getting a second opinion might be the right thing to do. Take this as an opportunity to shop around. You’ll want to find a provider that is a good fit, especially if you’re needing surgery, which can sometimes be the case with bike accidents.

Fractures and broken bones, for example, can be complex. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their medical philosophy, treatment plans and expertise.

It might feel silly to ask a doctor about something basic, but it will give you peace of mind that they are the right fit.

Know Your Insurance

Understanding the basics of your health coverage can be a major help to advocating for yourself in a complicated system.

Knowing basic terms is a great start. The more you know about your policy and what you have access to will help you avoid exorbitant medical bills or surprise costs. If something doesn’t make sense about your charges, ask questions and request a breakdown of the bill. It’s possible that there is a mistake or you’re being overcharged by the provider or hospital.

Ask Your Lawyer for Help

If your injuries were significant enough that hiring a lawyer makes sense, ask your lawyer if you need advice or support in being your own health care advocate. An experienced bicycle accident lawyer will be familiar with the types of injuries often caused in a bike crash, the common misdiagnoses or complications, and the ins and outs of the major healthcare providers in your area. Your personal injury lawyer should never direct your treatment, of course, but they can help you navigate the healthcare system.