One of the best developments in modern medicine is the emergence of smarter, better informed patients. Today, patients have access to more information about health, medicine and wellness than ever before thanks to the Web, the news media and public health initiatives.
The timing for this improved education couldn't be better. Doctors today are very busy, but still want to help their patients stay or become healthy. So today's patients, armed with accurate records and information about their own health, are better able to utilize the time they have with their doctor.
Just as valuable, patients who are better informed can also help our health care system realize needed improvements in costs and quality of care.
While some discussions around health care reform revolve around the roles of doctors, hospitals and insurers, patients also have a central role in helping to transform our health care system. Patient-centered care, an important current initiative, empowers patients to better manage their own health and work with their physicians and a coordinated team of other health care professionals to make informed decisions.
Smarter patients are likely to make more effective use of health care services and, therefore, help improve the quality of care and keep costs under control.
Here are a few tips on how to become a smarter patient and be more proactive about your own health:
- Keep track of your own health history. Record in a journal or an electronic tool any illness or injury, hospitalization or surgery, allergies, medications or supplements you take; and any illness in your immediate family. This is the type of information primary care doctors, specialists and emergency room doctors routinely ask their patients. When you have your own records you make the task of sharing this information during an appointment much less cumbersome or time consuming, while at the same time ensuring greater accuracy.
The more you know about your own health and the more information you are able to share with your doctor, the better your doctor can do his or her job, and the better your decisions will be when you need to make choices among a variety of health care options.
A collaborative approach with your doctor can save time, money and, most of all, your life.
HuffPost Lifestyle is a daily newsletter that will make you happier and healthier — one email at a time. Learn more