The more involved you are in your own healthcare, the more satisfying and efficient your care can be.
In life, you like to take charge. But the moment you step into a doctor’s office, your self-determination can fly out the window. As a result, you may leave the doctor’s office feeling confused, overwhelmed or unsure of what to do next. It’s an experience many people can relate to.
In the Know
Patient empowerment is about anticipating the tendency toward passivity many of us experience when speaking with our healthcare providers, then taking steps to fully understand and engage with them. Practice these three habits of an empowered patient to increase your engagement and create a more satisfying healthcare experience:
- Prepare ahead of time. Before every medical appointment, create a list of all medications you’re currently taking, what health conditions you have, any major health problems that run in your family, and any surgeries, imaging tests or vaccines you’ve received in the last few years.
- Ask questions. Sometimes healthcare providers use medical jargon that may be unfamiliar to you. Speak up if anything is unclear or you feel certain concerns haven’t been addressed. Simple but effective questions include: What is the purpose of this test or procedure? What other treatment options do I have? What does that term mean?
- Know your next steps. If your primary care provider (PCP) wants you to receive an imaging test or routine screening, make sure you know who to call to schedule it and what to say when calling. Also clarify whether your PCP will call you with the results or if you need to schedule a follow-up appointment to review them. If your PCP wants you to make certain lifestyle changes, ask him or her to write down specific action items (for example, limit daily salt intake to 1,500 milligrams, walk for 30 minutes every day, etc.).
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) offers tips to make the most of your medical appointment, as well as good questions to ask during your appointment. You can also use AHRQ’s online Question Builder app to create a list of appropriate questions to ask based on the type of medical appointment you have scheduled.
The Empowered Patient Coalition’s Engaged Patients website offers free educational resources pertaining to physician communication, hospitalization, healthcare decision-making and more.