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 decision.
Your family doctor or a general practitioner who knows and understands your needs can be your most valuable health partner. When you choose a doctor, there are lots of questions to ask, but these three matter the most:
Family doctors in Canada are usually certified in their field by the College of Family Physicians of Canada. To maintain their certification, doctors must take continuing medical education courses.
Family doctors and general practitioners have broad knowledge about many common medical problems. Some have additional training or experience in particular areas. For example, some family doctors may take a special interest in sports medicine, maternity, or environmental illnesses, to name a few. If you have a particular health concern or interest, it is worth looking into the backgrounds of doctors in your community. You may find this information by asking your friends and family, looking in the phone directory under Physicians and Surgeons, or contacting the College of Family Physicians of Canada. 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 questions:
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.
|Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: Consumers & Patients|
|540 Gaither Road|
|Rockville, MD 20850|
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.
|National Institutes of Health: Clear Communication|
|9000 Rockville Pike|
|Bethesda, MD 20892|
This U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website offers tips for how to partner with your doctor.
|National Patient Safety Foundation|
|268 Summer Street, 6th Floor|
|Boston, MA 02210|
The National Patient Safety Foundation (U.S.) 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.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine|
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Catherine D. Serio, PhD - Behavioral Health|
|Last Revised||October 29, 2012|
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