How to Be an Active Patient
People who are actively involved in their medical care stay healthier, recover quicker
when they're ill and live longer, healthier lives, says the Agency for Healthcare
Research and Quality.
Active patients participate as partners in their health care with their health care
providers. They don't make health care decisions on their own, but they're in charge
of the process. They schedule appropriate visits to their health care providers, plan
ahead to get the most out of those visits, learn about their conditions and medications,
and follow through on treatments and lifestyle changes they agree to with their health
Being informed about any health conditions you have can keep you from just going along
with tests and treatments.
Decide what you want to get out of an appointment before you walk into the office.
Write down any questions you have and any issues you want to discuss beforehand. Bring
your notes and refer to them.
Bring a list of all the prescribed and over-the-counter drugs, herbs, and
supplements you take and how much you take of each.
Bring a list of any medicines that you are allergic to.
Keep a health diary. If you have a constant condition or specific health
concern, make a dated log of your general health. Make special notes about symptoms
If you're seeing a new health care provider or a specialist for the first
time, bring copies of your medical history and information on diseases, conditions,
and cause of death of family members. This will help build your medical profile.
Write or call your previous health care provider and ask for copies of your records
and lab and X-ray reports be given to you or sent directly to the new health
Schedule and keep medical appointments.
Answer your health care provider's questions completely and truthfully.
If you don't think your treatment is helping you, speak up. Ask what to expect while
you're getting better and how long your health care provider thinks it will take before
your illness is cured or your symptoms are under control. It's important to speak
openly about symptoms because your health care provider uses the information you provide
to make a diagnosis and determine a treatment plan. And, a problem won’t be treated
if you don't discuss it.
Follow your health care provider's instructions. Be sure to take any medicine
prescribed, as scheduled. Follow any other physical and dietary regimens he or
she recommends. If you feel worse or you don't believe the treatment is working,
call your health care provider immediately.
Listen carefully to what your health care provider says about your condition.
This is as important as giving him or her a correct evaluation of your health.
Take notes during your visit if you think you may forget part of your treatment.
Be ready to answer specific questions. Your health care provider needs to
know your specific symptoms, when they started, and if they appear at certain
times of the day or after certain activities like eating.
Advise your health care provider if you're pregnant. This will affect the
treatment a health care provider recommends.
Take all medications exactly as directed. Taking more of a medication could be
dangerous. Taking less of a medication could delay your recovery.
Make positive lifestyle changes to support your medical treatment. Stop
smoking, limit your alcohol intake, improve your diet, get enough rest, and exercise
regularly. These can improve your body’s immunity and your body's ability to
Learn about your condition
Understanding your condition can help you manage and control chronic illnesses like
asthma or heart disease.
Ask your health care provider to recommend additional sources of information if you
want to know more about your condition. Libraries, valid Internet sites, support groups,
and associations can be helpful. Be aware that advice given on some health-related
Web sites and chat rooms may not be true.
If you have a serious condition, ask if there are other treatment options besides
the one your health care provider recommends.
You have a right to get the information you need to make decisions about your care.
This information may include:
Explanations of the purpose of tests and procedures that may be costly, painful,
Explanations of the purpose and expected success, and side effects of treatments
Clear up any medical advice or words you don't understand
Learn about your medications
One of your health care provider's main roles is to prescribe and check your medication
use. Your responsibility is to take the right amount at the right time.
Be sure you know the following before taking a prescription or over-the-counter medication,
herb, or supplement:
The medicine's name and what it's supposed to do
How often you should take it
Any medicines, foods or beverages to avoid when taking it
Its possible side effects
What you should do if you forget a dose