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Smart Decisions: Know Your Options

Topic Overview

Decision Points are designed to guide you through key health decisions, combining medical information with your personal values to make a wise health decision. See a list of:

Throughout your life you have to make health decisions for yourself and your family. The decisions you make influence your overall well-being as well as the quality and cost of your care. In general, people who work with their doctors to make health decisions are happier with the care they receive and the results they achieve. It is important to share in every decision about your health.

Good health decisions can help you reduce costs and get better care. A good decision takes into account:

  • The benefits of each option.
  • The risks of each option.
  • The costs of each option.
  • Your own needs and wants.

Always ask why

Too much care can be just as bad as—or worse than—too little. Most medicines can have side effects. Medical tests can give false results that lead to the wrong care. Surgery almost always has risks. And anytime you get care, there is a chance of error.

When your doctor suggests or orders a medicine, surgery, a test, or any other kind of care, ask why you need it and what would happen if you waited. If you don't need it now, you might want to wait.

But also remember that there can be costs to doing nothing. The "wait and see" option is not always the best. If you don't get care when you need it and a health problem gets worse, you may face higher costs than you would have if you had taken care of the problem sooner.

Asking why can help you and your doctor make the decision that's right for you.

Know the pros and cons

Every treatment choice has pros and cons. It's up to you to know what they are. Your doctor can be a big help here, as can this website.

Partner with your doctor to help you understand what a decision might mean for you now and in the long run.

Think about your needs and wants

People value things differently. When you have a health care decision to make, you have to balance issues like:

  • The desire for better health versus the risks of treatment.
  • The certainty of doing something versus the uncertainty of waiting (the known versus the unknown).
  • Convenience versus cost.

You are the only person who knows what mix is right for you. You may be willing to go through a very risky surgery if it could cure a serious health problem. Or you may be willing to put up with some pain if it means you can avoid a treatment with bad side effects.

For many decisions, these issues are just as important as the medical facts. They are part of what makes a decision right for you. They affect whether you get the care you want at a cost that seems reasonable to you.


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