Angie's List: Empowered patients

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How proactive are you about your health?

It's not enough to say you advocate for your health. It's all about your actions. According to a nationwide Angie's List poll, more than 90 percent of people say they consider themselves to be empowered patients.

"An empowered patient is someone who takes control of their health care. They understand their health insurance policy, they go to the doctor ready to ask questions about what's being prescribed and why," said Angie Hicks, Angie's List founder.

Despite being empowered, nearly 40 percent admit to feeling rushed through appointments, saying they don't feel they have time to communicate problems with their doctor.

It's not unusual for health providers to run behind. In fact, a recent Angie's List poll found that 80 percent of respondents said they waited almost an hour to see their provider.

The bad outcome is that a third of them said they ended up rushing through their appointment and didn't feel comfortable asking the questions because they felt like they needed to help the doctor catch back up. The key here: schedule your appointments early in the morning so the provider is on schedule and you can take your time.

While some issues may be sensitive to talk about with your doctor, honesty is the best policy, not only about your health but also your budget.

"It's important for consumers to be honest and open with their doctor about their budget and their health insurance plan because you want to make sure that the doctor prescribes something that you can actually afford - because if they don't the consumer will end up not taking the medicine," said Hicks.

To make the most of your doctor's appointments, make a list of your questions ahead of time. Also, take along a family member or friend, so you can have a second set of ears to listen to the diagnosis and offer you comfort.

According to a nationwide Angie's List poll:

  • More than 90 percent say they consider themselves to be empowered patients.
  • A third of respondents say a chronic illness or disease forced them to take and active role in their health.
  • Despite being empowered, nearly 40 percent admit to feeling rushed through appointments don't feel they have time to communicate problems with their doctor.

What is an empowered patient?

  • Patients who are in control of their health care by asking questions;
  • Research health topics online;
  • Participate in treatment decisions;
  • Understand cost of care and insurance;
  • Tell their health care provider the truth about their health;
  • Learn how to avoid unsafe health care environments;
  • Know their family medical history

Angie's List tips: how to take charge of your health care:

  • Do your homework: Check that your physician is properly licensed and board certified with no disciplinary actions.
  • Be assertive, not aggressive: Oversee your health by asking about different options, but don't be overbearing by viewing your doctor as the enemy.
  • Provide all necessary information: Inform the physician about other medical experts you are seeing, any medical allergies you have, medications you are currently taking, etc. These items are important to disclose in order to ensure the most effective treatment.
  • Prepare for your visit: Bring a list of questions you'd like to ask. However, prioritize the questions as there may not be time to get through them. If possible, schedule your doctor's appointment first thing in the morning before the doctor has a chance to fall behind.
  • Check for mistakes: To avoid potential safety issues, regularly obtain and review your medical records for any errors or omissions.
  • Embrace support staff: Don't hesitate to interact with nurses and physician assistants. These trained professionals can answer many of your health care questions.
  • Record your visit: Bring a recording device into the room or take notes while the doctor is instructing you so you can understand everything that is being said. It may even be beneficial to invite a family member or friend to tag along to your appointments to ask questions.
  • Speak up: Repeat aloud what your doctor says, as doing so puts you both on the same page and increases the likelihood you'll retain information.
  • Give feedback: You can't expect a physician to improve if he/she never knows there's a problem. Share your good and bad feedback.
  • Ask about cost and shop around: Understand what you pay for health care and insurance. Discuss test and treatment options to keep costs down or avoid an unexpected bill. Your doctor should be willing to discuss alternatives with you.
  • Move on: If you aren't seeing eye-to-eye with your physician after trying these tips, it may be time to find a new doctor.