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Your Role In Getting Quality Care

Quality health care happens when you take an active role in your own care, partnering with your doctor to create a more effective, trusting relationship that helps you stay healthy or determine the right care when you need it.

The choices people make about their health and health care profoundly affect outcomes and cost.

That is why we need to:

  • Understand the behaviors that put them at risk and, for those who do have an illness, understand how they do help manage it.
  • Work with their doctors to understand and make informed choices about treatments.
  • Understand the difference between good care and bad care—and demand good care.
  • Choose doctors, clinics and hospitals based on information about their ability to deliver effective care.

Be Engaged in Your Health Care

“There are some very simple things you can do to begin your journey to become a more informed patient and increase the likelihood of safe and effective care”, says Dr. Michael Parkinson, president of the American College of Preventive Medicine. The role of the doctor is to create your care management plan, tailored to your needs, whether they be preventive or whether they be chronic care. But there are simple things you need to know, do and act upon with your physician. Ask him or her what those are. Be prepared before you go into that very busy visit with a good list of your symptoms, all your medications, including things over-the-counter that you don't even think are medications. And be prepared to make a care management plan. Shared decision-making is key.”

The first step is making it clear to your doctor that you want to be in charge. “One of the most important things you need to understand that it is necessary to ask questions, “suggests Ann Monroe, President of the Community Health Foundation of Western and Central New York. Most physicians, at the end of an 11- or 15-minute appointment, can't be sure that they have given you what you need to have. Write them down before you go in, what do I want to know when I leave this appointment? Taking someone with you is very important; they can listen and report back to you later things the doctor said that you might not have remembered. Those are two things you can do.” With the help of your doctor, your family and friends you can take charge of your health!

“I think there are a lot of things that we need to keep ourselves healthy, the first of which is to take better care of ourselves,” Ann Monroe adds.

Learn What Drives Poor Health

Long before we talk about seeing the doctor, we need to understand what drives poor health. Health care begins with healthy behaviors. Did you walk 30 minutes today? Are you eating the right types of foods? Are you avoiding tobacco and use of alcohol? Do you have a healthy response to stress?

“We take more medications in this country than any country in the world on a per-capita basis, because we have medicalized things that aren't inherently medical, like lifestyle,” says Dr. Parkinson. The epidemic of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease are linked to those behaviors - what you eat, if you exercise, how you handle stress and your use of tobacco and alcohol. The ten leading categories of drugs that Americans take -8 out of the ten of those are lifestyle related. People around the world do not all take statin drugs, they don't all take hypertensive medications and sleeping pills. We've got to get back to the basics we cannot prescribe our way out of these problems it starts with behaviors.

And if you're part of the growing number of Americans that have a chronic disease, that's where you really need to know three things. You need to know about your disease. You need to do certain things that are specific to that disease. And you need to act upon information with your doctor.”

Focus on Prevention

We all need preventive care, whether we have a chronic condition or not. Do you know your preventive care needs? Learn more from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) -

Men: Stay Healthy at Any Age (Your checklist for health from AHRQ)

Women: Stay Healthy at Any Age (Your checklist for health from AHRQ)

One of the most powerful forces driving improvement in health care is you - the educated consumer. When you make informed choices and are engaged in your own care you not only experience better outcomes, you also help reward doctors, hospitals and health plans that deliver better care and service.

More on your role of getting quality care on the web:

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality - Patients & Consumers