Your role in your health does not stop once you leave the doctor’s office. You are one of the most critical members of your own healthcare team, and proper self-management can help to reduce costs and improve outcomes.
Niral Patel, M.D., founder of Windemere Medical Center and a board-certified internal medicine physician, believes when patients hold themselves accountable to their own health, they are investing in their own future by setting themselves up for savings and better outcomes down the road.
“With the rising cost of health care right now and the high deductible insurance plans that patients now have to buy, it is even more important for patients to take their health more seriously going forward,” explains Dr. Patel.
The costs associated with not paying attention to our health can be substantial. Did you know the average cost for a family health care plan in 2016 stands around $18,142, which represents a 3.4% increase over the previous year and a faster growth rate than wage growth in the US? More than half of workers in the US with single coverage health insurance plans pay a deductible of at least $1,000.
Luckily, we can control many of the factors that influence our health outcome projections. In particular, patients with certain chronic illnesses shoulder the majority of factors that influence their own health. Patients with diabetes, for example, are responsible for and provide about 95% of their own care.
Many health providers take it on themselves to provide their patients with a whole host of counseling tips to help improve care, but it’s up to you to engage with your own care so you understand the full spectrum of your treatment.
Steps Patients Can Take to Be More Active In Their Care
Beyond coaching and education from health providers, patients should consider adopting certain behaviors to be more successful participants in their own care including:
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If your current habits are unhealthy, one of the best things you can do for yourself is change them. Lifestyle changes known to improve patients’ health by leaps and bounds include:
- Smoking cessation
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Staying active
- Limiting alcohol intake
- Lowering stress levels
- Controlling cholesterol
Understanding the specifics of your health plan. It’s important to be aware of which specialists and hospitals are available to you in-network. You should also try and figure out how many visits are required for certain services, such as physical therapy, in order to try and anticipate costs.
Participation in decisions about your own care. Keeping records of your medical history, sharing any updates about your health and staying informed about next steps in treatment are all ways you can be a more active participant in your own care. According to one investigation, the doctor is not fully aware of all medical conditions being treated in up to 40% of patient interactions, so keeping an open dialogue can help improve quality of care. You should also express feelings and opinions about your treatment if you have any doubts.
Educating yourself about your condition(s). Patients should try to learn all they can about their condition or disease state. Taking notes while speaking to your doctor, reading information from medical society websites or even seeking a second opinion are all steps you can take to have a better understanding of your health.
Understanding your medications. One of the most common healthcare mistakes involves medication error. Knowing the names, indications and dosages of all medications you take can help you avoid exposing yourself to inadequate efficacy or dangerous interactions. Some doctors are not completely aware of every medication the patient takes in 49% of patient interactions, so don’t assume your physician is aware of everything you’re taking.
Above all else, you can enhance your own health care experiences by maintaining open lines of communication. You should ask your providers questions about everything related to your care. Informed, two-way conversations are one of the most important tools you have to invest in your own health.