Be Active in Your Healthcare

Be Active in Your Healthcare

Perhaps the most significant aspect of managing your healthcare is considering yourself a vital member of the healthcare team. You are a partner with your providers in your healthcare.

Your job is to become:

  • Informed about your health and healthcare options. Ask questions and do your own research.
  • Intentional about what you want. Discuss with your provider which alternatives best fit your needs.
  • Involved in decisions. Although you may rely on health professionals to advise you, you have the final say!

Overall all it is important to:

  • Choose a provider or clinic where you can get your needs met. As much as you can within the limits of your health insurance, choose a provider or clinic where you feel you can get your needs met and where you feel comfortable. You should expect your health provider to be compassionate and respectful, to listen actively and answer all your questions, and to partner with you on diagnostic and treatment decisions.
  • Be prepared to discuss the reason for your visit clearly. Nowadays, your provider may only have 10 or 15 minutes to spend with you, so identify the main reason for your visit right away. Be prepared to explain your symptoms, when they began, and what makes them better or worse. You might want to jot down key points before you go to your visit, so you don’t forget. Be sure to include your concerns and questions.
  • Ask questions. Here are some of the questions you need to ask:
    1. What is going on with me? Alternatively, what is my diagnosis?
    2. What are my options for treatment? (This should include conventional as well as complementary options.)
    3. What should I be doing now to manage my condition?
  • If you are given a prescription, you will understand better if the medication is working if you understand the outcomes and goals of the treatment. Ask some questions:
    1. What is this medication?
    2. What symptoms does it treat?
    3. How much do I take and how do I take it?
    4. What are possible side effects?
    5. How will I know that is working?
    6. How much does it cost? (Is there an appropriate cheaper substitute?)
  • Keep records. Keep copies of your health records, including your prescription history. You have the right to ask for this information anytime. This is especially important if you need to change clinics or providers. It will ensure that you provide accurate information to your new provider.
    To get your medical records, request a medical information release form and ask for all elements of your record, including x-rays and labs, as well as reports and letters to other providers. Give the form to the office personnel for processing.
    Keep building your records. If you ask for the information every time you see each provider, you will always have an updated version. Some healthcare organizations have established online records of certain data, such as family vaccination information. Check with your insurance company and/or healthcare provider’s business customer service representative.
  • Be informed about your insurance coverage. Do not assume you are covered for even an office visit. Read the information provided by your health plan or check on the website, so you have a general idea of the services covered and your out-of-pocket expenses. If you are referred to another provider or for a diagnostic test, ask if is covered under your insurance. You may have to call member services with specific questions.
  • Find the health information you need. There is lots of health information on the Internet,in medical materials, or via help phone lines.
    The Internet offers a wealth of good information, but you have to evaluate what you find. Who runs the site and where do they get their information? What evidence do they offer to back it? Your best bets to start are government and university sites and the sites of reliable associations, such as the American Heart Association. Your provider may also be able to suggest or provide good sources of information.
  • Ask for what you want! You can build a better partnership with your healthcare provider if you express your needs clearly. After all, you know best how you are feeling and what will work best for you.

If what your healthcare provider is recommending is not feasible or will not work for you, say so. Sometime you might have to negotiate. Remember that you always have the right to choose. Sometimes you may need to share ideas back and forth several times before you agree on the best plan or treatment.