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Wednesday, 15 October 2014 13:11

MHC - Wellness & Self-Management


Wellness & Self-Management


What are the top five things you can do to stay healthy? Eat healthy, get active, get screened, quit smoking and watch your weight.

These health behaviors, like the ones you learned in your sixth grade health class, are the kinds of things that prevent a lot of chronic conditions from occurring. And when they do occur, it's these same health behaviors that can help minimize the level of severity and allow you to be as healthy as possible living with that chronic condition.

The good news is when it comes to wellness and prevention; we have a lot of control! The bad news is unhealthy behaviors become habits; and changing those habits can be hard.

For some people the concept of wellness is the total absence of disease and that you don't have to take medications. But one of the ways that one might think about wellness is that you are the healthiest that you can be given the health conditions that you're living with.

Often the words “health” and “medicine” are used interchangeably. But the distinction is important. “Health” is the state of physical, mental and emotional wellbeing while “medicine” is the process that can help take us from being sick to being well.

You have an important role to play when it comes to both health and medicine. Your daily choices and behaviors allow you to maintain your health. But when you do get sick, it's your partnership with your doctor and your healthcare team that helps ensure your medical care is successful.

Quality health care happens when people take an active role in their own care, becoming partners with their doctor to create a more effective, trusting relationship that helps them stay healthy or determine the right care when they need it.

Regardless of what type of relationship you have with your doctor, there is a lot you can do on your own to manage your health like watching what you eat, getting exercise and limiting stress.

Learn more in the Quick Guide to Healthy Living from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.


Tools & more on self-management on the web:


My Health Counts! Daily Food Diary

My Health Counts! Exercise Log

My Health Counts! Action Plan

Adult BMI Calculatorfrom the Centers or Disease control & Prevention

Child & Teen BMI Calculator - from the Centers or Disease control & Prevention

My Fats Translator - Fat Calculatorfrom the American Heart Association

Build Your Question List - from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

What Vaccines Do You Need? - from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Mental Health Screening Center - from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance 

myhealthfinder - Tools to get personalized health recommendations

Stay Connected - Apps and online communities for healthy living from healthfinder.gov

Español - Healthfinder.gov en español le ofrece la información más actualizada para que usted y sus seres queridos se mantengan saludables.



Tuesday, 14 October 2014 16:33

MHC - More Questions to Ask the Doctor


 My Health Counts! More Questions to Ask the Doctor


Most doctors are pressed for time these days and patients feel like they don't have time to really talk and ask their doctors questions. Rushed doctor visits can leave people with lingering concerns about their treatments or medications, or not having fully explained their symptoms.

You can improve your care by learning more about your conditions—asking questions, sharing your medical history and making sure you understand your doctor's recommendations, and taking the necessary steps to feel better sooner.

Make Sure You Get What You Need

  • Think about what you want to talk about before your doctor's appointment.
  • Bring up the most important questions at the beginning of your appointment. Don't wait until the end of the appointment—the doctor may not have time to get to the issues that are important to you.
  • Bring a trusted family member or friend with you to listen, ask questions and remind you of things you wanted to talk about.
  • If your doctor's office uses a computer to record medical information and notes from the visit (electronic medical record), ask if you can have a copy of the summary.
  • If your doctor is using too many medical words that you don't understand, ask, “Could you put that in plain language, please?”
  • If you are not sure whether you will follow through with your doctor's directions, tell your doctor about your concerns and ask for time to think it over.


Questions about the agenda & goals for your appointment:

  • I'd like to tell you about what I would like to accomplish today.
  • What do you think we need to cover today?

Questions about treatment:

  • Are there any alternatives or options?
  • What are the side effects? What are the benefits?
  • How confident are you that this will help?
  • How will I know if the treatment is working?
  • When can I expect to see a change?
  • What will I notice?

Questions about the condition:

  • What ideas do you have about what is contributing to my problem?
  • What concerns you the most?
  • What kinds of problems or difficulties should I watch out for?

Questions about self-management:

  • What can I do to manage my condition?
  • What might get in the way of my success?
  • What resources/materials might help?
  • What programs or services in my community might be helpful?
  • How can my family/friends help?

Questions you might ask about a specific illness or symptom:

  • What's wrong with me? What else could it be?
  • Can you draw a picture or show me what is wrong?
  • What causes this kind of problem?
  • Can I give this illness to someone else, and if so, how and for what period of time can I pass this on?
  • Are there any activities or foods which I should avoid?
  • When can I return to work or school? What is the long-term prognosis of my condition?
  • How can I prevent this from happening again?
  • How will this problem affect me in the future?
  • What will happen if I don't treat my condition right away?
  • What treatment should I follow, including dietary, medical treatment, and lifestyle changes?
  • What are the risks and benefits of the treatment options and the consequences of not treating?
  • When do I need to see the doctor again? Where can I get more information about my condition?
  • Should I return for a follow-up? Until then, what symptoms should I watch for and what should I do if they occur?


Questions you might ask about medications your doctor prescribes (Talk to your doctor, healthcare team member or pharmacist):

  • What is the name of the medication?
  • Why do I need this particular medication?
  • What is the medication supposed to do? How does it work?
  • When will it take effect?
  • What are the possible side effects of the drug?
  • How and when do I take this medication, and how much should I take?
  • How long will I need to take the medication?
  • Are there any tests necessary to monitor the use of this medicine?
  • Is this medication safe to take with other medications, over the counter medications, and supplements I may be taking?
  • Are there any foods, drinks, other medications or activities I should avoid while I take this medication?
  • How often will I need to get the medication refilled?
  • How will I know if the medication is working?
  • What are the risks of not taking the medication?
  • Is there a generic drug or less expensive medications available for my condition?
  • Are there lifestyle changes I could make that would lessen my dependency on the medication?
  • What if I miss a dose?
  • What if I accidentally take an extra dose?
  • How should I store this medication?
  • Do you have any written materials about this drug?

Questions you might ask about surgery or a procedure:

  • Why do I need an operation?
  • What are the benefits and risks of the operation?
  • How long will it take to recover?
  • When do I check in to the hospital and where?
  • What can I expect to happen before the surgery or procedure?
  • Can you draw a picture or show me what will happen during the procedure?
  • How long will the procedure take?
  • Can my family go with me?
  • What effects will the procedure have on me in the short and long term?
  • What is the doctor's experience in performing the procedure?
  • What medications will be given to me?
  • Are there any treatments I could have instead of an operation?
  • What will happen if I don't have the procedure?

Questions you might ask about a lab test, an x-ray, or another test:

  • Why is the test necessary?
  • How will the test be done?
  • How accurate will the test be?
  • What will happen if I do not have the test?
  • What are the benefits and risks of the test?
  • Will it hurt? If so is there anything I can do to lessen the pain?
  • Can the doctor perform the test in the office or will I have to go to the hospital or the laboratory?
  • Is there any preparation for the test?
  • What are the side effects of the test?
  • What changes or effects should I report to the doctor?
  • When and how will I receive the results?
  • What should I do if I don't receive the results?
  • Can I get a copy of the test results? 


More questions to ask your doctor on the web:


Be Prepared for Medical Appointments

Improving health care quality is a team effort. You can improve your care and the care of your loved ones by taking an active role in your health care. Ask questions. Understand your condition. Evaluate your options. Build your question list. (from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality)



My Health Counts! How to Get Copies of Your Tests & Records


Keeping copies of your health records and tests can improve communications and coordination between hospitals, doctors, nurses and patients. It allows you to be a better partner with your doctors and helps you manage your own health.

You should request a copy of your health records from all your healthcare providers, including your general practitioner, plus your eye doctor, dentist, and any other specialist you have seen and include them in your Personal Health Record. Ask if your records are in an electronic format that you can access or if you need to request copies. Also, ask your doctor or a member of the office staff to help you determine which parts of your record you need.

All hospitals, and most doctors' offices, have a release form to authorize the release of information. In most cases you can request the medical information directly from the doctor's office or medical records department at a hospital. Most facilities charge for copies. The fee can only include the cost of copying (including supplies and labor), as well as postage if you request the copy to be mailed. It can take up to 60 days to receive your medical records, so ask when you can expect to receive the information you requested. Keep in mind that offices may only keep records for a certain amount of time as required by state law. You should call the office to be sure your records still exist. In many cases you can simply send a letter that includes the relevant information rather than using a specific form. This letter will need to include:

  • Your birth date.
  • Your full name (including any information about name changes).
  • Time frame when you were seen (for example July 1998 to September 2000).
  • The specific types of information you want sent (such as reports from a brain scan, your cholesterol levels, etc.).

You can have your records sent to yourself to share with a healthcare professional, or directly to a health professional. If you do have the records sent to a health professional, let them know to expect the files.

It is best to get in the routine of asking for copies of tests as they are done. Some testing facilities will send copies of the results directly to the patient if it is noted on the doctor's test orders.

Did you know?

If your physician has moved, retired, or died, his or her estate has an obligation to retain your record for a period defined by federal and state law. You may be able to locate your records by contacting:

  • Your physician's partners
  • The health information manager at a nearby hospital where the physician practiced
  • The local medical society
  • The state medical association
  • The state department of health

More on getting copies of your records & tests on the web:


Do I Have the Right to See My Medical Records?

Information about obtaining medical records in New York State. (from the New York State Department of Health)

Records Are Yours for the Taking

Learn how to get a hold of your medical records. (from Trisha Torrey)




Tuesday, 14 October 2014 15:30

MHC - Finding Dr. Right


 My Health Counts! Finding Dr. Right


Getting peace of mind about health care begins largely with finding the right doctor—one who values openness and trust and provides high-quality care. Despite medical advances, the most powerful medical intervention we have is still a trusting, caring relationship between you and your doctor. You get the best care when you and your doctor work well together as a team.

Job description for the ideal doctor - “Wanted: Caring professional with excellent communication skills, solid clinical judgment, and honed technical abilities. A person I can proudly call My Doctor. You collect key medical and personal information and put the puzzle pieces together in a way that makes sense. You recognize that I am the expert on my own body and offer insights based on your knowledge and experience that guide me to make the most sense for me. When we don't see eye-to-eye, we respectfully agree to disagree. I trust you deeply. One day my life could be in your hands.”

Assessing your relationship with your doctor should be an ongoing process. Look for ways to improve your current relationship as it can be challenging to find a new primary care physician in many areas and partnership building takes time.

If you come to the decision that you need to find a new doctor, it's best to do the research when you're not under pressure. Don't wait until illness strikes to look for a doctor. A good start is gathering information about your insurance and making some general decisions about your care. Look for basic information - check credentials, hospital affiliation, location, hours and other information that may be important to you like gender, language, cultural background. Then, schedule a preliminary appointment to see if it's a good match.

Unfortunately checking into a doctor's credentials can be a challenge. If you are just trying to get basic information like medical school, residency, fellowship, licensing, or board certification, then you can start with your state medical board.

In New York State visit www.nydoctorprofile.com

You can also try something like www.Healthgrades.com (they charge for the info) or www.ucomparehealthcare.com (no charge there).

The problem is - they make it look like you will also get the other info (like legal actions, malpractice, etc.) - BUT - the information they show is provided by the physician who has no responsibility for keeping it updated. Here's their disclaimer:

The data collected by the New York State Department of Health is accurate to the best of the knowledge of the Department, based on the information supplied by the physician who is the subject of the data. While the Department utilizes a variety of sources of information in checking the accuracy of the data reported, we cannot be sure that all of the information on this Web site is right and up-to-date, and cannot be responsible for any information that is wrong.

Often, if you are looking for more in-depth information, like about legal actions or malpractice, the only way to get the information is to google the doctor's name and the word"malpractice" or any combination that will help you get information about legal actions.

Remember—keeping a strong relationship with your doctor is one of the key steps to staying healthy!

More on Finding Dr. Right on the web:


Choose the Right Doctor

Whether you need to make a change in your primary care doctor, or if you need a specialist to take care of your specific symptoms, you'll want to follow these guidelines to choose the right doctor for your medical care. (from Trisha Torrey About.com: Empowered Patient)


Are you looking for a doctor, health center, organization, or public library to help you with your health care needs and questions? Browse resources to find people and places offering services and support.


Tuesday, 14 October 2014 15:00

MHC - Create Your Personal Health Record


 My Health Counts! Create Your Personal Health Record


Most doctors are pressed for time these days and patients feel like they don't have time to really talk and ask their doctors questions. Rushed doctor visits can leave people with lingering concerns about their treatments or medications.

Quality care happens when people take an active role in their own care, becoming partners with their doctor to create a more effective, trusting relationship that helps them to stay healthy or determine the right care when they need it.

A Personal Health Record (PHR) is a valuable tool that you can use with your doctor and other members of your healthcare team. It will help you make the most of the limited time you have with your doctor and can empower you to become more active in your care and treatment.

An ideal PHR will provide you with a complete and accurate summary of your health and medical history. It contains life-saving information such as medical conditions, emergency contacts, family health history, allergies, blood type, medical test results, lab reports, living wills or health proxies, insurance policy information, immunization dates, medications, charts/x-rays.

Unlike health records and charts, which are controlled and used by your health care providers, personal health records are managed by you--the patient. Some people prefer to record and store their personal health information in a paper format. This low-cost option can be bound with paperclips or stored in a simple notebook. Some people prefer to use an organization system that is commercially produced. Many people prefer to store and update information on their personal computers. The information can then be recorded and stored on a portable storage device such as a smart card or USB flash drive. There are various free forms available to get you started, as well as commercially available software you can purchase. There are also a growing number of internet-based PHRs, but be cautious about putting personal information on the internet. Use whatever system works for you!

Personal health records offer a number of potential benefits. These include:

Empowerment of patients

PHRs let patients manage the information in their medical record and monitor health data about themselves (very useful in chronic disease management).

Improved patient-provider relationships

PHRs improve communication between patients and doctors and other members of their healthcare team. They allow documentation of doctor's visits, diagnostic test results, medications, goals, family health history, and personal health history.

Increased patient safety

PHRs are powerful tools that may provide drug alerts, help identify missed procedures and services. PHRs also give patients timely access to updated care plans.

Improved quality of care

PHRs enable continuous, comprehensive care with better coordination between patients, doctors and other providers.

More efficient delivery of care

PHRs can help avoid duplicative testing and unnecessary services. They provide more efficient communication between patients and doctors (e.g., avoiding congested office phones).

Better safeguards on health information privacy

By giving patients control of access to their records, PHRs offer more selectivity in sharing of personal health information.

Bigger cost savings

While PHRs offer many advantages, they also raise at least two concerns:


Most of us are concerned about the privacy of their health information. Electronic and internet-based PHRs are vulnerable to privacy issues; however, when developed in the right way, PHRs offer security features that can protect patient privacy.


Involving patients not only in viewing and interpreting but also entering their own data raises the issue of data accuracy.

More on personal health records on the web:


Family History: Resources and Tools

Offers valuable information about family health history and includes FAQs, fact sheets and case studies, news articles, multimedia presentations and disease-specific information. (from the CDC, Office of Genomics and Disease Prevention, Family History)


A PHR helps you play a more active role in yours and your loved ones' healthcare. This site guides you through the process of creating your own Personal Health Record. It has free downloadable forms, tools and resources. (from the American Health Information Management Association)