Clover Health member Kathy McIntosh shares how her relationship with health and wellness has changed over the years.
As a child, I rode my bike all over my Southern California neighborhood. One day when I crashed while cruising through my doctor’s parking lot, I rode home to find Mom instead of facing the nurses, remembering those who forced Jell-O on me in the hospital after a tonsillectomy.
I’ve matured some since then. I bravely enter doctors’ offices. I’ve evolved from terrified to skeptical to respectful of healthcare providers.
Motivated by a desire for control over my own health-related decisions, I co-founded the nonprofit organization Healthwise, Inc. with two others in the mid-1970s. We helped people take charge of their health by becoming informed consumers. Cooperating with local healthcare providers, we wrote a handbook and created educational videos. I grew to respect the healthcare professionals who shared our belief that patients are responsible for their healthcare actions and decisions.
This idea of empowered patients taking a more active role in their care was quite new when Healthwise started. Most people were like my parents, relying completely on the knowledge of professionals for their health without considering their personal responsibility.
Working with healthcare professionals to create our materials helped me realize doctors are people, too. Each brings different perspectives and skills, plus the biases, strengths, and weaknesses we all have.
I wish I could say I’ve lived a completely “healthwise” lifestyle since then. I wish I’d kept better records of immunizations, health metrics, and medical events. I wish I had exercised more regularly and eaten less sugar. However, I did learn the basic premise—it’s my body, my health, my life, and my responsibility to work together with medical professionals to find the best path to health.
It’s my responsibility to listen to my body and manage its care. For example, I know that sitting at my desk too long writing is not a great idea, so I make sure to take breaks to refill my water glass or take a stroll outside to stretch my legs and clear my head. I’ve learned to give my healthcare providers the best information I have about my status. And I expect them to keep me informed and treat me with respect.
I bring a list of questions to every appointment, along with a list of medications and supplements I’m taking. When I meet a new provider, I bring what records I can so that I may complete those pesky questionnaires and have an intelligent discussion.
These days, the internet has the ability to both inform and frighten—I try not to obsess about symptoms and take advantage of the option to communicate electronically with my provider.
We all deserve excellent care and respect. And that respect is a two-way street: Even when a physician looks just out of high school, I try not to mention it. Unless they call me “sweetie.” Then all bets are off.
Oh. I still ride a bike and I still hate Jell-O.
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This article was originally published in the winter 2022 issue of Clover Living magazine. Want to see more articles like this? Subscribe to Clover Living magazine for free (if you aren’t already subscribed) here.
Published on 1/27/22