Manage Your Health
Going to the doctor can be stressful, especially if you are sick or worried. You may think that being a “good” patient means doing what your doctor tells you.
But the truth is, staying quiet is not a good idea. By asking questions and understanding your treatment options, you can share in making decisions with your doctor and receive the best possible care. In this section, we offer tips and information to help you better manage your own healthcare and be an active member of your healthcare team.
How to Get the Most from Your Doctor Visit
What is a treatment option, anyway?
A treatment option is a medicine or therapy to treat your problem. A treatment option may be a pill, a shot, exercise, or an operation (surgery). It could even be a combination of things.
The process of fully exploring your options starts with asking your doctor questions about your diagnosis or condition. The next step is a full discussion about the available treatments – including the concerns you have about options and which options might be best for you.
It may seem okay to follow the first treatment your doctor suggests and then wait to see if it works. But if you take the time to talk to your doctor about all your treatment options, you may find one that works better for you.
How can knowing your treatment options improve your life?
You might feel better – not only about your health problem but also about your treatment choice and your part in decision making. Telling your doctor what is important to you can help you find the best medical care and improve your quality of life.
Talking about treatment options may help you find:
- A treatment or medical test that could work best for you.
- A treatment with fewer side effects.
- A treatment that’s better for your budget.
- Better control over your health care.
Some people feel nervous about asking their doctor questions. Remember: You know more about your body, your health, and what’s important to you than anyone else. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
Health care can be confusing
Whether you are just starting treatment or your treatment is already underway, it is never too late to take an active role in your health care.
By talking with your doctor, nurses, and other people on your health care team, you can make sure you are not missing the best treatment for you.
Here are a few tips to help you better understand your treatment options:
Give your doctor as much information as you can – Don’t wait for your doctor to ask questions. Share everything – even information that might be embarrassing. This information can help your doctor make better recommendations.
Ask as many questions as you need to understand your diagnosis – If you do not ask questions, your doctor may think you understand everything you are being told. Write down your questions before your visit so you do not forget anything. Start by asking the most important ones and work your way down the list.
Make sure you really understand the information – Take notes, bring someone with you to the appointment, or ask how to get more information.
Remember to follow up – In some cases, you may need more information or care. Call your doctor’s office if:
- You have more questions.
- You feel worse.
- You have problems with your medicines.
- You have not gotten your test results.
You and your doctor can work together to find the best treatment for you.
Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/options/.