To get the best medical care you can, you should be an informed patient who works closely with your health care provider.
To get the most from a doctor visit, follow this advice from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ):
Start with open communication. Don’t assume your doctor has all the information he or she needs. If you think of a detail you forgot to mention during an appointment, jot it down. Then, call your doctor or nurse.
Mind your medications. Taking too much or too little medicine or using the wrong one is the most common medical error. Tell your doctor what medicines you take—including over-the-counter remedies and supplements—how much you take and when you take them. Review your medicines at least once a year with your doctor. Keeping your records up-to-date helps prevent dangerous interactions.
Share any history of allergies or reactions to medicines or treatments. This will help ensure you don’t receive a medication that may harm you.
Ask your doctor to write clearly. He or she should clearly write the name and purpose of a prescribed medicine, as well as instructions for taking it. Then check to make sure the pharmacist gives you the right one.
It takes a team effort of you and your health care providers working together to ensure your medical treatment is safe and appropriate.
To be sure you’re an informed health care consumer:
Ask questions. Be sure to get a clear explanation of your care and ask about treatment, results, and any possible side effects. Write down what your need to know about treatment; don’t trust your memory. And remember, it’s your right to get a second opinion if you want one.
Educate yourself. Becoming an informed health care consumer can help ensure the safety and quality of your care. To do so, learn more about any conditions and treatments you receive by asking your doctor for pamphlets and brochures. Search the Internet and discuss what you find online with your doctor.
Many health insurance companies cover preventive-care screenings that check for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other potential health problems that often can be treated successfully with early detection, the AHRQ says.
Seeing your health care provider as required to schedule screening tests, immunizations, counseling, and other preventive care is one of the easiest ways to stay healthy.
During a preventive visit, you and your doctor discuss your current health, your and your family’s medical history and any harmful behaviors, such as smoking. You’ll also talk about steps you can take to prevent chronic disease.
Take notes during the visit and make sure you follow any recommendations your doctor gives you regarding your diet, level of physical activity, substance abuse, stress management, and other self-care issues.
It’s up to you to follow your doctor’s suggestions. Keep asking questions until you know what you need to do. Being assertive and acting as your own health care advocate is the best way to get optimum health care.