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What it means to be an active patient

Doctor and Patient discussing results

Doctors are experts on medical care. But you are the expert on yourself and your life. That's why it's important to be an active patient. When you're actively involved in decisions about your care, you can be sure your choices reflect your values and beliefs.

7 ways to become more active and involved in your care:

  1. Ask questions. It may help to write down your questions before your doctor visit. If your doctor says something you don't understand, don't be afraid to ask them to say it again in a different way. You have a right to understand your condition and your options.
  2. Bring a support person. Consider taking a trusted friend or relative to appointments. This person can take notes for you and help you remember later what your doctor said.
  3. Help your doctor. Always try to answer your doctor's questions fully and truthfully. This will help your doctor better manage your care. Keep your doctor informed about any changes in your health.
  4. Use your whole team. Find out who else is on your treatment team and how they can help you. For example: A nurse practitioner may be more available to answer questions than your doctor. A social worker can help you with insurance issues or recommend a support group. And many hospitals have "patient navigators" who can help you get the care and services you need.
  5. Connect the dots. If you have multiple doctors, write down their names and their role in your care. Provide a copy of this list to each doctor, and make it clear that you expect them to communicate with each other about your care.
  6. Be involved in decisions about your care. Your thoughts, feelings, and values are an important part of any decision, so share them with your doctor. You may also want to talk to loved ones who will be affected by your choices.
  7. Do your part. After you and your doctor have made a decision, find out what you can do to ensure the best possible outcome. Write down your next steps—this can help you feel confident about your decision.


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