Making a Good Match: Working with Your Health Care Provider
Are you and your health care provider a good fit? Your health is important to how well you function and enjoy life, so your health care provider can be one of your most valued partners.
Deciding what’s important
What does good-quality health care mean to you? It may mean being able to get an appointment with your health care provider quickly. It may mean having a health care provider who is willing to spend time with you. Or you may value being treated well by the staff at the office.
Another factor that’s critical to your health is receiving good-quality clinical care. That includes having the right tests for your health condition and being prescribed effective treatment. This type of care plays a big role in how well your health is managed. To make sure you’re getting high-quality care, it’s important to pick a good health care provider, and work with him or her closely.
Picking a health care provider
You have many factors to consider when picking a provider, such as:
Insurance plan. Is the health care provider on your health insurance plan? If not, you may have to pay more.
Gender. Some people have a strong preference for either a male or female health care provider.
Age. Some patients prefer an older health care provider with lots of experience. Others may want a younger provider.
Experience with your health condition. If you have a health condition, ask how many of the health care provider’s patients have the condition. Someone who works with more people like you will have more experience for treating you. Does the health care provider have the right training and expertise to serve your needs? If not, does he or she refer you to specialists? People with a heart condition may do best under the care of a cardiologist, for example. People with diabetes may need to see a diabetes nurse educator.
Board certification. You also can call the hospital with which a health care provider is affiliated or contact your state’s medical licensing board to make sure the provider is certified. You can also find out if any patients have made complaints about the health care provider.
Helping you get care when you need it
How available is your health care provider? How many of these statements are true for you?
I can get an appointment within a reasonable amount of time for nonurgent care (such as a routine checkup or follow-up appointment).
The office staff is helpful and responsive.
A nurse or other on-call provider is available after hours.
Having good communication
The way you and your health care provider talk with each other can affect how you take care of your health. Here are some important factors to consider about your interaction. Does your health care provider:
Explain diagnoses and treatment choices clearly?
Make it easy for you to understand things?
Encourage you to ask questions?
Take the time to listen to you?
Include you in making decisions about your care?
Treat you with respect?
Feel like a trusted partner?
Talking about treatment options
If you need to have a certain type of test or surgery or use a new type of medication, it’s your health care provider’s job to make sure you understand what’s involved. Some things he or she should talk with you about include:
Why you need the test or treatment
What the benefits and risks are
Costs for the treatment that you may need to pay
Potential side effects
Other treatment options
Keeping you healthy with preventive care
Does your health care provider order the preventive tests and screenings you need to stay healthy? Examples of these tests include:
Colon cancer screening
Tests to monitor a medical condition are important, too. Ask your health care provider which preventive tests you need and how often.
Being a good patient
Working well with your health care provider also means being a good patient. Some traits that health care providers value include:
Preparing for office visits. Many health care providers like a prepared patient. Organize your thoughts and write them down before your appointment.
Communicating clearly. Many providers appreciate patients who explain their goals for the office visit, list their symptoms clearly, and ask questions.
Playing an active role. Many health care providers like it when patients learn about their health conditions and play an active role in treatment choices and self-care.
Finding a new health care provider
Feel like you’re not fitting with your current provider? You can make a change. Keep in mind that no one health care provider can meet everyone's needs. You have to decide which qualities matter most to you. In today's world, medical visits can be rushed and important things forgotten or overlooked. Make sure you and your health care provider can work together so that you get the quality of care you deserve.