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Good health care doesn't just happen. You have to do your part.
Taking an active role in your health care is the best way to make sure you get
great care and reduce costs at the same time.
A strong partnership
between you and your doctor is key to getting great care and reducing costs. A
doctor who not only knows your medical history but understands what's important
to you may be the resource you need most when you face a major health care
A primary care
physician such as a
family medicine doctor or an
internist who knows and understands your needs can be
your most valuable health partner. Specialists who work on separate health
problems may not see your whole health picture or get a good understanding of
what's important to you. When you choose a doctor, there are lots of questions
to ask, but these three matter the most:
For most people, a good
choice for a primary care physician is a board-certified family medicine doctor
or an internist. For children and teens, a board-certified
pediatrician or family medicine doctor is a good
A doctor becomes board-certified by completing training in
a specialty area and passing an examination to demonstrate that he or she has
the skills and experience needed to practice that medical specialty. To
maintain their certification, doctors must take continuing medical education
courses and pass periodic examinations. Board-certified family doctors,
internists, and pediatricians have knowledge about many common medical
problems. For more information, see the topic Medical Specialists.
Because health problems rarely
develop when it's convenient, it helps to have a doctor who can see you when
needed. Before you select a doctor, call or visit his or her office. Tell the
clinic receptionist that you are looking for a new doctor. Ask these
During your first visit, tell
your doctor that you would like to share in making treatment decisions. Pay
attention to how you feel during the visit.
If the answers are no, look for another doctor. It may
take more than one visit for you to decide whether you will be able to work
with a doctor.
If you are unhappy with
how your doctor treats you, it may be time for a change. Before you start
looking for a new doctor, talk with your current doctor about how you would
like to be treated. Your doctor will probably be pleased to work with you as a
partner if you tell him or her that's what you want. If you don't make your
wishes known, your doctor may think that you, like many people, want him or her
to do all the work.
This Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) website has evidence-based tips on staying healthy, choosing quality care, getting safe care, understanding diseases, comparing medical treatments, and more. AHRQ is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It supports research that will help people make more informed decisions and improve the quality of health care services.
This U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website offers tips for how to partner with your doctor.
The National Patient Safety Foundation is an organization dedicated
to improving the safety of patients. The foundation works to raise public
awareness about patient safety and is a resource for people and organizations
who are concerned about the safety of patients.
Other Works Consulted
Street RL Jr, et al. (2009). How does communication heal? Pathways linking clinician-patient communication to health outcomes. Patient Education and Counseling, 74(3): 295–301.
April 19, 2011
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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