Work Closely With Your Doctor (cont.)
Learn All You Can From Your Doctor
- Use your doctor as a teacher and coach. Some patients just want their doctors to tell them what to do. They don't want to know the whys and the hows. Some of the time, that's fine. But if you really want to get care that best meets your needs, be a patient and a student.
- Don't just ask your doctor what you should do. Ask why. Your doctor can help you understand your care.
- Always ask to see if you have options. Which options seem best for you? What are their pros and cons? What effects might your choice have in the short term and over the long term?
- Benefit from your doctor's experience with other patients. Even though every patient's situation is different, your doctor has probably helped other patients work through the same questions and decisions that you have to deal with. Some doctors may be better teachers and coaches than others, but they really do want to help you get the answers you need.
- Tell your doctor that you care about cost. A doctor's main focus is to help you get better, not to save you money. But if you speak up, your doctor may be able to help with both. Don't expect your doctor to know the exact cost of a drug or test or treatment. There are so many things that determine the cost of care—your health plan's arrangement with your doctor, how your plan bills for care, where you get the care, and others. But your doctor can give you an idea of how the cost of one choice compares to another.
- Prepare for every doctor visit. This helps your doctor give you better care and helps both of you make the most of the visit.
- Be ready to say what your main symptoms are, when they started, and what you have done to treat them so far. It may help to write these things down before your doctor visit.
- Write down the three questions that you most want to have answered. If the doctor does not bring them up, don't be afraid to ask.
- Bring a list of all the medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements that you are taking.
- Bring copies of recent test results if the tests were done by a different doctor.
- Take an active role in every visit or call.
- Pay attention. Ask questions if you don't understand something.
- Write down the diagnosis, the treatment plan, and any guidelines for self-care and follow-up visits or calls.
- Be honest and direct about what you do or do not plan to do.
- Learn all you can about your health problem. Good information—whether you get it from your doctor, the library, or a trusted website—is a powerful tool for helping you make wise health decisions. If you have a complicated problem or want to know more about your health options:
- Start by asking your doctor if he or she has information about your problem that you could take home. Some doctors offer DVDs, CDs, brochures, or reprints from medical journals.
- If you need to make a decision about a treatment, find out how quickly you need to decide. You may have a few days, weeks, or months to explore your options.
- If your health plan has an advice line, call and ask if they can help you get more information.
- If you use the Internet to find health information, start by searching sources such as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or a national organization that represents a particular disease, like the American Diabetes Association or the National Cancer Institute. These sources present information that is based on the analysis of a large body of medical evidence. Your health plan may also provide health information on its website.
- If you have questions or concerns about the information you find, discuss them with your doctor.
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