Become an

Informed Patient

Learn to be a savvy healthcare consumer with these tips:

You can read more about how to be an active consumer at www.ahrq.gov/beactive

Using the

Healthcare System

Selecting and Working with a Hospital

  • Ask your doctor about which hospital is best for your health needs
  • Find out if a hospital accepts your insurance and what costs are not covered by insurance
  • Check how a hospital compares to others by specific conditions or procedures at hospitalcompare.hhs.gov
  • Review a hospital’s performance results at qualitycheck.org
  • The American Hospital Association (www.aha.org), in its Patient Care Partnership brochure, lists six treatment basics that you should expect during any hospital stay:
    • High-quality hospital care
    • A clean & safe environment
    • Involvement in your care
    • Protection of your privacy
    • Help when leaving the hospital
    • Help with your billing complaints
  • Consider an Advance Directive:
    • Living Will - you tell people how to make medical decisions for you when you can’t make them for your self. 
    • Durable Power of Attorney - you can name someone to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself
  • Be sure you understand the instructions you get for follow-up care when you leave the hospital

Selecting a Doctor

Things to keep in mind when selecting a primary care doctor:

  • Understand the difference among different types of primary care doctors:
    • General Practitioners provide healthcare for a wide range of medical problems
    • Family Practitioners have extra training on health care
    • Internists treat adults.  Some are specialists such as cardiologists.
    • Pediatricians treat children.
    • Geriatricians have additional training in the care of older adults.
  • Board Certification means a doctor has extra training after medical school to become a specialist in a field of medicine (such as internal medicine or geriatrics) 
  • Different doctors accept different health insurance.  Make sure to ask if your insurance is accepted.
  • Does the office have a convenient location and hours that fit your schedule?
  • Are blood work and other tests done at the doctor’s office?
  • Is the office staff friendly and helpful?
  • Do you feel confident and comfortable with this doctor?

Talking with

Your Doctor

  • Be sure to tell your doctors about your health history
  • Tell your doctor about your current health complaints/problems
  • Give information; don’t wait to be asked.
  • Bring a list of all medicines you take, including dosages
  • Ask questions you have doubts or concerns.
  • Take notes or ask the doctor to write it down for you. 
  • Don’t feel rushed.  If you need more time to discuss something, tell the doctor or nurse. 
  • If you forget to mention something or have a question after the visit, call the doctor’s office.
  • If your symptoms get worse or you have problems with a new medicine, call your doctor’s office. 
  • If your doctor recommends surgery, ask your doctor or surgeon:
    • What will you be doing?
    • About how long will it take?
    • What will happen after surgery?
    • How can I expect to feel during recovery?

After a

Diagnosis

Your doctor has given you a diagnosis.  What now?  Here are some simple steps you can take to get the treatment and peace-of-mind you need:

Your

Medicines

  • Keep a list of all medicines you take, including the dosage:
    • Prescription medicines
    • Medicines you buy without a prescription (over-the-counter)
    • Vitamins and supplements
  • Know what each medicine is for; ask questions if you are not sure about when and how much to take
  • Try to use the same pharmacy so that they have a complete record of all your prescription medicines and can check for drug interactions. You can also check online www.healthfinder.gov.
  • Read the label on the medicine container.  It has important information about side effects, warnings, interactions, dosage and more. Ask the pharmacist to explain anything you do not understand.

Patient

Rights

All patients have the right to:

  • Accurate and easily-understood information about your health plan, health care professionals, and healthcare facilities.
  • Participate in your treatment decisions.
  • Confidentiality of your health information.
  • A fast, fair, and objective review of any complaint and appeal.