Managing your healthcare can be quite a challenge when you’re juggling doctors, insurance, and medical bills. The challenges increase when your provider requests information or shares something you may not be comfortable making public.
Don’t worry — you have every right to discretion about your health. It is nobody’s business but yours, and there are many low-pressure ways to keep your information private. Take a look at this list for four ways you can maintain your privacy without breaking any unnecessary boundaries.
1. Take Advantage of Telehealth Services
You can talk to your doctor without even leaving the house. Go online and research telehealth offers available to you. Once you have found which providers are on your insurance, you can use that list to find online services.
The most important service is the patient portal— a website designed to streamline the pre/post-appointment process. These networks provide straightforward scheduling options, digital test result acquisition, and access to most other services.
One of the most useful telehealth services is remote video appointments. By scheduling one with your doctor, you can visit from the comfort of your own home and simplify your communication. Another option is at-home STI testing, which provides a home kit you can use and send back through the mail. STIs are common conditions. There is no reason to be embarrassed, but here you’ll be able to test yourself discreetly regardless.
All of these options are available via the internet or phone. You will never have to leave your home to use a telehealth service, so it provides complete privacy. However, there may be situations in which you will need to share your health information with others. Even then, you have the ability to control how those things get shared outside of your personal space.
2. Know Your Comfort Levels
Part of handling your health is talking about it to make adjustments to your commitments. Say you have an appointment during class or are too sick to work and your boss asks for a reason. Do you have to tell them everything that is going on? What information about you is necessary for them to know?
The truth is, they only need to know the category of your reasoning (having an appointment/not feeling well). It’s the same when anyone else asks you something similar — how much you share is completely up to you.
Don’t cross your own personal boundaries to satiate the curiosity of others. If a person is prying past your boundaries, then it’s OK to give a deflective excuse (like saying, “It’s personal”).
On the other hand, if the person is respectful and trustworthy, it might be helpful to share your health information. Consider allowing them the opportunity to listen to you. It can be really liberating to have a friend or coworker with whom you can be relaxed and open. While you should always respect your boundaries, you might also find that they expand with support from the right sources.
3. Talk to People You Can Trust
You might already have people who you trust to confide in (should you feel comfortable). It can be a good way to know you’re not alone, even while keeping more intimate details to yourself. Are they family, friends, or colleagues? Have they proven in the past that they’ll respect your needs? After you’ve assessed your comfort levels, you can be a little more at ease loosening up around them.
This is an important thing to consider when looking for a doctor as well. Your treatment search will be more fruitful if you take into account reviews of people’s experience with particular doctors.
You want to make sure that they respect your privacy with the utmost care. If you belong to a minority group, you may feel better seeing a doctor recognized for respect toward that group.
Finally, don’t be afraid to look for a new healthcare provider if you have a bad experience. Not all doctors have the bedside manner that they should in this profession. It is not your fault if something happens that is uncomfortable for you. This is your body, after all, so do what’s best for you. You will find a doctor who suits you well.
4. Keep Your Data Secure
Managing your social interactions is the most straightforward method for discretion, but there are other precautions to take as well. As technology improves our access to health services, it also comes with new (although unlikely) dangers. That’s why, in the event of a data breach, it’s important to keep your passwords robust and secure.
The most convenient method for password creation and cataloging is through a password management program. These programs allow you to instantly generate a secure password and have the program remember it for you.
If you are an organized person who prefers a tangible resource, you can keep a written list somewhere safe instead. This is also recommended for any other medical papers you may have.
Finally, when using telehealth services, your data will be most secure if you use a virtual private network (VPN). These networks allow you to make your network connection private even when using public Wi-Fi. You’ll be able to check test results or prescriptions from anywhere with complete anonymity.
This comes at a cost, however. There are free VPNs, but those without a paywall tend to make their money by selling your data. For maximum security, a paid VPN is recommended.
It really is true: no one needs to know your personal details. What you share about your body is your prerogative. It is yours and yours alone. Trust yourself, but also do keep in mind that no matter what health problems you have, you have a right to privacy.
While social interactions vary, most doctors will give you the care, understanding, and discretion you need. So take solace in the fact that you are safe and valid in your own skin.