What you should know about your health care

How much do you know about your health care?  Consumer group Angie's List says now is the time to arm yourself with information.

 "An empowered patient is someone who takes control of their health care. They understand their health insurance policy, they go to the doctor ready to ask questions about what's being prescribed and why, " says Angie Hicks of Angie's List.

Angie's List says this is what an empowered patient is: 

Patients who are in control of their health care by asking questions;
·    Research health topics online;
·    Participate in treatment decisions;
·    Understand cost of care and insurance;
·    Learn how to avoid unsafe health care environments;
·    Know their family medical history

Angie's List tips on how to take charge of your health care:
·    Do your homework: Check that your physician is properly licensed and board certified with no disciplinary actions.
·    Be assertive, not aggressive: Oversee your health by asking about different options, but don't be overbearing by viewing your doctor as the enemy.
·    Provide all necessary information: Inform the physician about other medical experts you are seeing, any medical allergies you have, medications you are currently taking, etc. These items are important to disclose in order to ensure the most effective treatment.
·    Prepare for your visit: Bring a list of questions you'd like to ask. However, prioritize the questions as there may not be time to get through them. If possible, schedule your doctor's appointment first thing in the morning before the doctor has a chance to fall behind.
·    Check for mistakes: To avoid potential safety issues, regularly obtain and review your medical records for any errors or omissions.
·    Embrace support staff: Don't hesitate to interact with nurses and physician assistants. These trained professionals can answer many of your health care questions.
·    Record your visit: Bring a recording device into the room or take notes while the doctor is instructing you so you can understand everything that is being said. It may even be beneficial to invite a family member or friend to tag along to your appointments to ask questions.
·    Speak up: Repeat aloud what your doctor says, as doing so puts you both on the same page and increases the likelihood you'll retain information.
·    Give feedback: You can't expect a physician to improve if he/she never knows there's a problem. Share your good and bad feedback.
·    Ask about cost and shop around: Understand what you pay for health care and insurance     

. Discuss test and treatment options to keep costs down or avoid an unexpected bill. Your doctor should be willing to discuss alternatives with you.
·    Move on: If you aren't seeing eye-to-eye with your physician after trying these tips, it may be time to find a new doctor.

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