Gone are the days when everyone can rely solely on their family doctor with the help of a nurse to take charge of their health care. To obtain the best health care today, people should participate actively in the process. Active participation means many things:
Visiting a health care practitioner regularly
Communicating effectively with health care practitioners either directly or via a patient-identified family member or surrogate
Remaining watchful for signs of ill health or bodily changes (such as a change in the color of a mole or detection of a lump in a breast or testis)
Keeping a record of personal medical information
Learning about health care issues (including how care and drugs can be paid for—see Overview of Health Care Financing Overview of Health Care Financing Taking the cost of health care into account is an important part of health care planning. Costs of health care are higher in the United States than in other countries and put a strain on the... read more )
Becoming familiar with technology so they can participate in telemedicine Using Telemedicine Telemedicine is health care provided at a distance, usually over the telephone or internet. Although in-person visits have several advantages, telemedicine is a valuable alternative when in-person... read more when appropriate
Creating advance directives Advance Directives Health care advance directives are legal documents that communicate a person’s wishes about health care decisions in the event the person becomes incapable of making health care decisions. There... read more , including a healthcare power of attorney or preferences regarding organ donation, and making them available in case of emergency
For people with a specific disorder, active participation also means monitoring their health. For example, people with hypertension regularly measure their blood pressure, and people with diabetes regularly measure their blood sugar level.
Good communication—open, honest sharing of information—with health care practitioners is crucial because it can mean better health. With good communication, practitioners better understand the problems a person is having, and the person better understands how problems should be treated. It also fosters trust and confidence between the practitioner and the person, making the person more likely to follow the treatment regimen. Information on the internet (see Researching a Disorder Researching a Disorder When a disorder is first diagnosed, the doctor often gives a handout that summarizes key points of information. (See also Introduction to Making the Most of Health Care.) People may also have... read more ), if it is reliable (see STANDS—Commentary), can help people learn about their health and conditions in ways that can enhance their relationship with their practitioner.