Many people are more
satisfied with their health care if they share the responsibility with their
doctors. Your doctor is an expert on medical care, but you are the expert on
yourself. Often there is more than one option for diagnosing or treating a
condition. By being a partner with your doctor, you can help choose the option
that best fits your values, beliefs, and lifestyle. You also will feel more
confident about carrying out the chosen treatment.
Here are some
tips for being a good partner with your doctor:
Build a relationship with your doctor.
Let your doctor know that you want to be a partner in your health care. Tell
the doctor what your expectations are.
Be an active participant in each appointment. Listen carefully to what your doctor
says. If you do not understand a diagnosis or treatment, ask questions. And tell
the doctor if you think that following the prescribed
treatment will be hard for you.
Have a family member or friend with you during your appointment, if possible. He or she can take notes, ask questions to clarify information, and help you remember what your doctor says.
Ask for instructions. Before you leave the doctor's office, make sure you know what you are
supposed to do to care for yourself. Ask for written information, links to videos and websites, and any other instructions.
Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Prepare your child for tests and exams.
Let your child know why he or she is seeing a doctor and what will be done
during the visit. Your child's age and developmental level will determine how
best to prepare him or her. And ask your older child if he or she would like to speak to the doctor alone. Teens may be more willing to talk about topics such as sexuality, mental health, and drugs or alcohol if they know they can have time on their own with their doctors.
What is the reason for your appointment?
your appointment, you will need to answer some important questions so that you
and your doctor can plan your care together. Completing the appropriate forms
before the appointment helps you provide correct and complete information, take
an active role in your health care decisions, and make the most of your limited
Choose the form that best describes your reason
for seeing the doctor.
take prescription or over-the-counter medicines, including herbal remedies or
vitamins, bring all your medicines with you to any appointment with a doctor.
If you cannot bring the medicines, bring a
list of the medicines that you take(What is a PDF document?).
You might also bring a copy of your daily medicine schedule(What is a PDF document?). Your doctor can review the best times of the day to take each medicine and prevent unwanted side effects or interactions between drugs, supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.
What other forms might be helpful?
If you and your
doctor are going to discuss a new medicine, medical test, surgery, or special
treatment, choose a form from the following list. Then fill in your
information, and take the form with you to your visit. Completing the form will
help you understand the importance of the treatment your doctor is advising for
your health condition. If you do not have the form at the time of your visit,
complete the form at home after the visit.
Also, bring a copy of your health plan's list of covered
prescription drugs. This list is also known as a formulary.
What do you need to do after the appointment?
Follow the instructions your doctor gave you, including filling a prescription, scheduling tests, or making another appointment. Call your doctor if you still have questions or if there is anything you do not understand.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems or symptoms that concern you. Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety.
Update the medical records that you keep at home, including new test results and medicine changes. For more information,
see the topic Organizing Your Medical Records.
Other Places To Get Help
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: Consumers & Patients
540 Gaither Road
Rockville, MD 20850
This Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) website has evidence-based tips on staying healthy, choosing quality care, getting safe care, understanding diseases, comparing medical treatments, and more. AHRQ is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It supports research that will help people make more informed decisions and improve the quality of health care services.
American Academy of Family
P.O. Box 11210
Shawnee Mission, KS 66207-1210
The website FamilyDoctor.org is sponsored by the American Academy of Family Physicians. It offers information on adult and child health conditions and healthy living. There are topics on medicines, doctor visits, physical and mental health issues, parenting, and more.
KidsHealth for Parents, Children, and
Nemours Home Office
10140 Centurion Parkway
Jacksonville, FL 32256
This website is sponsored by the Nemours Foundation. It
has a wide range of information about children's health—from allergies and
diseases to normal growth and development (birth to adolescence). This website
offers separate areas for kids, teens, and parents, each providing
age-appropriate information that the child or parent can understand. You can
sign up to get weekly emails about your area of interest.
National Patient Safety Foundation
268 Summer Street, 6th Floor
Boston, MA 02210
The National Patient Safety Foundation is an organization dedicated
to improving the safety of patients. The foundation works to raise public
awareness about patient safety and is a resource for people and organizations
who are concerned about the safety of patients.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (2011). 20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors. Patient Fact Sheet (AHRQ Publication No. 11-0089). Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Also available online:
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (accessed November 2012). Questions are the answer: Better communication. Better care. Available online: http://www.ahrq.gov/questions.
Anspaugh DJ, et al. (2011). Becoming a responsible health care consumer. In Wellness: Concepts and Applications, 8th ed., pp. 453–484. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Rakel RE (2011). Establishing rapport. In RE Rakel, DP Rakel, eds., Textbook of Family Medicine, 8th ed., pp. 146–165. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Ritter RH, et al. (2011). Interviewing techniques. In RE Rakel, DP Rakel, eds., Textbook of Family Medicine, 8th ed., pp. 166–175. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Wallace M (2010). Older adult. In CL Edelman, CL Mandle, eds., Health Promotion Throughout the Life Span, 7th ed., pp. 619–647. St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.