To make the most out of available health care options, people should participate actively in their health care process. Active and effective participation means many things, including the following:
Visiting a doctor or other health care professional regularly and as recommended depending on age and health status
Communicating effectively with health care professionals 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, unanticipated weight change, or detection of a lump in a breast or testis)
Keeping a record of personal medical information including lists of medications, allergies to medications, and immunizations
Learning about health care issues (including how care and medications can be paid for)
Becoming familiar with technology to 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
In certain countries, signing 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 and living will, and documenting preferences regarding organ donation; such health care documents should be made available in case of emergency
For people with a specific disorder, active participation also means monitoring their own 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 doctors and other health care professionals is crucial because it leads to better health care. With good communication, doctors better understand the problems a person is having, and the person better understands how problems can be treated. It also fosters trust and confidence between the doctor 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 or other health care professional often gives a handout that summarizes key points of information. (See also Introduction to Making the Most of... read more ), if it is reliable, can help people learn about their health and conditions in ways that can enhance their relationship with their practitioner. However, dialogue between people and their health care professionals is essential to put information obtained from the internet into relevant personalized context.