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Take Charge of Your Health Care

Content last updated on:
December 03, 2014

The Basics

Speak up and ask questions at the doctor’s office. When you play an active role in your health care, you can improve the quality of the care you and your family get.

Most people depend on different doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and insurance programs for their health care. It’s a team effort, and you are the most important member of the team.

To take charge of your health care:

  • Keep track of important health information.
  • Know your family health history.
  • See a doctor regularly for checkups.
  • Be prepared for medical appointments.
  • Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist questions.

Use these tools to help you choose a doctor, hospital, or nursing home.

Take Action!

Take Action!

Follow these steps to play an active role in your health care.

Keep track of important health information.
Keep all your health information in one place to make it easier to manage your health care. Take the information with you to every medical appointment.

To start your own personal health record, write down:

  • Your name, birth date, and blood type
  • The name and phone number of a friend or relative to call if there’s an emergency
  • Telephone numbers and addresses of places where you get medical care, including your pharmacy
  • Dates and results of checkups and screening tests
  • List of shots (and the dates you got them)
  • Medicines you take, how much you take, and why you take them
  • Any health conditions you have, including allergies

If you aren’t sure about some of this information, check with your doctor’s office.

Know your family health history.
The health history of your family is also an important part of your personal health record. Use this family health history tool to keep track of conditions that run in your family.

See a doctor regularly for checkups.
Your doctor or nurse can help you stay healthy. If you don’t have a doctor or nurse, check out these tips on choosing a doctor you can trust.

Regular checkups can help the doctor or nurse find problems early, when they may be easier to treat.

What about cost?
The Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, covers many preventive services, like screenings and shots. It also covers well-child visits through age 21 and well-woman visits. 

Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get preventive services at no cost to you. Check with your insurance provider for more information.

If you don’t have insurance, check out these resources to help you get health care:

Write down your questions ahead of time.
Write down any questions you have about your health and take the list with you to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist. Use this tool to build your list of questions.

Make the most of doctor visits.
Take your list of questions and personal health record with you to the appointment. You may also want to take a family member or friend to help take notes.

Be sure to talk about any changes since your last visit, like:

  • New medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter medicines, herbs or home remedies, and vitamins
  • Recent illnesses or surgeries
  • Any important changes in your life, like becoming unemployed or a death in the family
  • Health concerns or issues
  • Health information you’ve found on the Internet or heard from others

Follow up after your appointment.
It can take time and hard work to make the healthy changes you talked about with your doctor or nurse. Remember to:

  • Call if you have any questions or side effects from medicine.
  • Schedule follow-up appointments for tests or lab work, if you need to.
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