Taking an active role in your healthcare can help you get the best care possible. More and more, doctors expect and want people to be active partners in their care. For you to do that, you need to understand your health conditions and what you can do to help keep yourself healthy.
Share lots of information about your health
It is important for your primary care provider to know as much as possible about you and your health history. Please be honest and share all information, even things that may feel embarrassing. If your healthcare provider does not know about all medications you are taking, or about all aspects of your health history, s/he may make the wrong diagnosis or give you a treatment that is not right for you.
Talk about your over-the counter medicines
When you talk to your doctor about medications you are taking, please include over-the counter medicines, vitamins and supplements on your list. Even medicines that are safe enough to be available over the counter might interact with other things that you are taking.
Doctors and other healthcare providers are busy, and you may not feel comfortable talking about something that is concerning you, or to ask questions because you don’t want to slow them down. Here are some things you might do:
- Start your visit by asking to go over the whole list of things that you’d like to discuss. You and your provider can then put them in order of what is most important (to you, as well as to them) so you can focus your time on those things.
- Write down your concerns and questions so you don’t forget something.
- Ask for written information or suggestions of good websites that might address some of the things on your list.
Bring a family member to your appointment
It can also be hard to remember all the things that you hear at an appointment. Being stressed, which is often true when you have health concerns, can make it harder to remember. Written information can help. You can even ask to audiotape the visit to help you remember. And bringing a family member or friend can help because you have another person who hears what is said. Your provider might even check to see what you remember by asking you to say back to them what you heard. That is a very useful approach that is more and more common – it is often referred to as ‘teachback’.
Finally, asking questions is a very important way to help you become an active partner in your healthcare. Consumer Reports has started a new program that they call ‘Choosing Wisely’. Part of that program is encouraging people to ask five questions during visits with their healthcare providers:
- Do I really need this test or procedure?
- What are the risks and side effects?
- Are there simpler, safer options?
- What happens if I don’t do anything?
- How much does it cost, and will my insurance pay for it?
Talking to your healthcare provider and asking questions are important ways for you to become a more active partner in your healthcare. For more information, check out these websites:
Tips for talking to your doctor
The health educators at the Learning Resource Center are happy to help. They provide trusted & reliable health information and connect people to local resources in the community. Connect with a health educator today! Be well, be well informed.