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 healthcare with their healthcare
providers. They don't make healthcare decisions on their own, but they're in charge
of the process. They schedule appropriate visits to their healthcare providers, plan
ahead to get the most out of those visits, learn about their conditions and medicines,
and follow through on treatments and lifestyle changes they agree to with their healthcare
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 medicines, 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 or changes.
If you're seeing a new healthcare 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 healthcare provider and ask for copies of your records and lab and X-ray
reports be given to you or sent directly to the new healthcare provider.
Schedule and keep medical appointments.
Answer your healthcare 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 healthcare 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 healthcare 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 healthcare 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 healthcare
Listen carefully to what your healthcare 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 healthcare 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 healthcare provider if you're pregnant. This will affect the treatment
a healthcare provider recommends.
Take all medicines exactly as directed. Taking more of a medicine could be dangerous.
Taking less of a medicine 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 heal itself.
Learn about your condition
Understanding your condition can help you manage and control chronic illnesses like
asthma or heart disease.
Ask your healthcare 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 healthcare 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, or
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 medicines
One of your healthcare provider's main roles is to prescribe and check your medicine
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 medicine,
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