How to Become an Active Partner in Your Health Care Journey in 10 Easy Steps

How to Become an Active Partner in Your Health Care Journey in 10 Easy Steps
| by Alan Feren

Collaboration between patients and medical professionals is at the heart of achieving optimal health outcomes. As a patient, you hold a pivotal role in your own healthcare. Building a genuine partnership necessitates mutual effort and understanding. Let's explore the patient's responsibilities, along with exemplary behaviors, for actively engaging in your healthcare journey.

Step 1: Shared Decision-Making

Shared decision-making is the foundation of a robust doctor-patient partnership. It hinges on transparent and honest communication between you and your healthcare provider. Before embarking on any treatment, your doctor should furnish you with comprehensive insights into the objectives, risks, potential complications, and alternative options. This process, referred to as «informed consent,» empowers you to make well-informed choices about your health.

Have you engaged in thorough discussions with your healthcare professional regarding treatment options, weighing the pros and cons?
Do you feel adequately informed about the potential risks and benefits of the recommended procedures?
Have you considered the impact of your decisions on your family and those around you?

Step 2: Choose the Right Healthcare Professional

The initial step in becoming an engaged partner in your healthcare is selecting a healthcare professional who champions your active participation. Seek one who not only values your input but also encourages your involvement in the decision-making process.

Does your healthcare professional warmly welcome your questions and concerns?
Do they actively foster discussions about various treatment options?
Do you comprehend and have confidence in the suggested approach(s)?
Are they open to seeking a second opinion when appropriate?

Step 3: Effectively Communicate

Effective communication is the linchpin of a successful partnership with your healthcare professional. Articulate your thoughts, opinions, needs, concerns, and desires clearly, while maintaining respect and receptivity to their expertise.
Have you felt at ease expressing your thoughts and concerns with your doctor?
Does your healthcare professional create an environment conducive to open dialogue?

Step 4: Share Information Directly and Concisely

When discussing your health concerns, clarity and conciseness are paramount. Given your healthcare professional’s time constraints, being direct and succinct ensures your concerns are heard and addressed effectively.
Have you successfully conveyed your health concerns concisely during appointments?

Step 5: Prepare for Appointments

To maximize the utility of your appointments, consider these preparatory steps:
Arrive early and adhere to punctuality. It’s likely you will have some waiting time which can be used to go over your questions and concerns prior to being seen.

Conduct research using trustworthy sources like the National Institutes of Health and
Prioritize your most urgent signs and symptoms.
Compile a list of questions beforehand.
Contemplate bringing a trusted companion or seek permission from your healthcare professional to record the discussion.

Have you implemented these tips to enhance the productivity of your appointments?

Step 6: Honesty About Lifestyle

Be forthcoming and transparent about your lifestyle choices, encompassing habits such as smoking (including cannabis), drinking, and ALL medication(s), and supplements since the latter can cross-react with prescription medications or result in complications during or following surgery. Your doctor relies on this information to make informed recommendations. 

Have you provided your doctor with an honest and accurate account of your lifestyle choices?

Step 7: Understand Your Treatment Plan

Ensure you grasp the entirety of your treatment plan. If any doubts or concerns about adherence arise, discuss them with your healthcare provider before concluding the appointment. Ask until you understand!

Do you have a clear comprehension of your treatment plan, and are there any reservations or uncertainties?
Can you identify potential obstacles that might hinder you from adhering to the recommended treatment plan for discussion with your physician?

Step 8: Question Medical Tests

Don't hesitate to inquire about the necessity and expected outcomes of medical tests, encompassing blood tests and diagnostic imaging. Understanding the rationale behind specific tests can avert unnecessary procedures.

Have you engaged in conversations with your doctor regarding the purpose and potential risks of medical tests?

Step 9: About Your Diagnosis and Treatment Plan

Following a comprehensive medical history, examination, and necessary tests, ensure you fully understand your diagnosis, its implications, and your treatment plan. Shared decision-making is crucial here, with both you and your healthcare professional concurring on the most suitable course(s) of action or at a minimum, what alternatives are present.

Have you engaged in discussions regarding your diagnosis and treatment plan with your healthcare provider?
Do you feel genuinely involved in the decision-making process?

Step 10: Continue Your Communications

Many healthcare providers offer patient portals for ongoing communication. Embrace this tool to maintain a connection with your doctor and address any concerns or queries that may surface between appointments.

Have you explored the option of utilizing your healthcare professional's  patient portal for sustained communication with your healthcare provider?

To summarize, actively engaging in your healthcare necessitates participation in decision-making, fostering open and effective communication with your healthcare provider, and taking ownership of your health. By adhering to these guidelines and nurturing a collaborative relationship with your healthcare professional, you can collectively strive for the best possible health outcomes and mutual satisfaction.