The most important part of taking an active role in your own care is good communication with your health care team, which includes doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, pharmacists and others who care for your physical and mental health.
The following tips can help improve communication with your health care team—and ultimately help you take charge of your own health by becoming a better informed, more engaged patient.
- Research your condition. The more you understand your condition(s), the easier and more helpful your discussions will be. Become familiar with terms that your doctor may use when talking to you about your condition(s).
- Be familiar with common symptoms of your conditions(s) and track them between your medical appointments. Bring this information to your doctor at each appointment. It is an easy way to show them what you have been experiencing and how it changes over time with any treatments prescribed.
- Make a list of questions or topics to talk about. Put together a list of questions for your doctor in advance of your appointments. Find out if your doctor is willing to have you email your questions ahead of time.
- Take notes during your appointment. Taking notes, or bringing someone along to take notes for you, can help ensure that you remember everything that is discussed at your office visit. Keep a notebook to track questions and information from each visit.
- Bring someone with you. It helps to have another person come along with you to your appointment, to listen and offer other questions you might not have thought about.
- Make sure you understand what your doctor says. Do not be afraid to ask the doctor to explain words or instructions you don’t understand. Use “I” statements, such as“I don’t understand,” rather than saying “You are not being clear.”
- Know who to call. You might have more questions once you leave the doctor’s office or are discharged from the hospital, so it’s important to know who you can call for more information.
- Get a second opinion. Even if your doctor has treated other people with the same condition(s), you may wish to get another opinion on your specific situation to make sure that you have all the information you need to make the best choice about your treatment. Most doctors understand and will support your decision.
- Do not be shy about talking about other concerns. There are many things that affect your ability to stay healthy. If you are sad because of life changes due to your illness, your doctor can refer you to someone to talk with. If you are having trouble affording your medications, there are programs that can help, including support from pharmaceutical companies.
- Stop by UTMB’s Health Resource Center. Located in the main lobby of Jennie Sealy Hospital, the center is a calm, welcoming space where patients, guests and primary caregivers are invited to access information about specific health conditions and treatment options, learn about helpful hospital resources, and much more. A patient resources specialist is available Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.utmb.edu/health-resource-center.