Adulting: Being a Better Health Care Consumer

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When is the last time you’ve walked out of the doctor’s office feeling confused? As a college student stepping into adulthood, one of the most basic yet overlooked life skills is being a responsible health care consumer. The good thing is that it is pretty easy—all you need to do is ask!

Communication with your health care team is important. Be an active member in your health care plan by asking questions.  Time is limited during doctor visits, so prepare for the appointment beforehand by thinking about what needs to be discussed during the visit. Write questions down before arriving to the doctor’s office to make sure no personal and urgent questions were left behind! Here is an idea of what to think about before making your next doctor’s appointment:

  • Determine what you hope to accomplish from this doctor’s appointment:
    • Are you seeking diagnosis for a medical problem?
    • Do you want to discuss a health care problem and receive medical advice?
    • Do you need to receive or adjust a current prescription?

Once at the doctor’s office, it is important to UNDERSTAND the answers received. Take notes or bring someone to help in understanding and remembering what was said by the doctor. If left confused, or if something may have been misunderstood, ask the doctor to explain the answer again. Rephrase the responses in your own words to confirm your understanding. Here are a few suggestions:

  • What is my diagnosis?
  • What are my treatment options? What are the benefits of each option? What are the side effects?
  • Will I need a test? What is the test for? What will the results tell me? When will I get the test results?
  • What will the medicine you are prescribing do? How do I take it? Are there any side effects?
  • Why do I need surgery? Are there any alternatives to treat my condition? How often do you perform this surgery? What are the risks and benefits to the surgery?
  • Do I need to change my daily routine?
  • Based on my age and family medical history; are there any preventive screenings in which you recommend based on general medical guidelines?
  • How many times have you done this procedure?
  • When will I get the results?
  • Why do I need this treatment?
  • Are there any alternatives?
  • What are the possible complications?
  • Which hospital is best for my needs?
  • How do you spell the name of that drug?
  • Are there any side effects?
  • Will this medicine interact with medicines that I’m already taking?

On a final note, it is always appropriate to receive a second medical opinion if uncomfortable or unsatisfied with the care received. YOU are YOUR best advocate. Research reputable sources, ask questions and do your part in ensuring quality care because in the end, your health is your responsibility.

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