Originally published during Heart Failure Awareness Week 2023, this article explains how knowledge can help a patient build the confidence to speak openly with their healthcare providers, which in turn, builds a foundation of trust between the two parties.
As you are going through treatment for heart failure, it's important that you feel comfortable speaking candidly and openly with your healthcare providers – from your primary physician to nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and others who comprise your entire care team. You may need to ask difficult questions regarding your options, share information about your side effects, inquire when you don’t understand a new regimen, and sometimes even provide details about the bumps in the road that you’re encountering. Whether you’re admitting that you’ve overdone it with salt, or you feel fantastic and want to explore a new exercise routine, the relationship you have with your provider can set the tone for a productive, healthy conversation.
How Preparation Can Help Build Trust
One of the best ways to build a relationship with your healthcare providers is to be prepared. The more you are prepared, the more you can ask open and candid questions without fear or discomfort. This exchange will help to build trust between patients and their providers.
Being prepared means that you arrive to your appointments with a list of your daily medications, a log of your daily weights and/or blood pressure readings, a general overview of how you feel from day-to-day since your list visit, a list of any concerns or questions, and any other information that has been requested by your physician. Keeping track of your personal health data arms you with knowledge to take an active role in your treatment plan. 
It’s important to ask questions and make sure that you understand the answers in full. If you do not understand something, ask for greater explanations or even related resources that may help you understand the topic better. You may want to bring a journal or use a notes app on your mobile phone to take notes during the appointment. You may also consider bringing a family member, friend, or other loved one who can help you receive all the information.
Before you leave, make sure to ask questions about your follow-up care plan, how to handle complications or worsening conditions, if lab follow-up is needed, and any other questions you may have. 
Advocating For Yourself as a Patient
Being prepared and asking questions is just one way a patient can advocate for their own health. They might also consider seeking out a heart failure specialist if they’re currently seeing a primary care doctor or internist or asking for a second opinion on a recommended course of treatment.  Similarly, research can be done online through healthcare organizations and professional societies like the Heart Failure Society of America, Women Heart, the American Heart Assocation, and many others.
A patient also might inquire with their healthcare providers about potential clinical research opportunities in the form of clinical trials.  Likewise, they may ask their providers for – or seek out on their own – decision-aids to help them take an active role in deciding on advanced treatments like the placement of a device like a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). 
In summary, knowledge can help a patient build the confidence to speak openly with their healthcare providers, which in turn, builds a foundation of trust between the two parties. A patient can elevate their knowledge through preparation, tracking their personal health data, asking questions, using decision-aids, and exploring external resources or second opinions.