Throughout your life you will
have to make health decisions for yourself and your family. The decisions you
make will influence your overall well-being as well as the quality and cost of
your care. People who learn as much as they can about their choices often are
more confident about the decisions they make. And in general, people who work
with their doctors to make health decisions are happier with the care they
receive and the results they achieve.
Why should you partner with
your doctor to make decisions? Aren't you paying him or her to know what to do?
There are often
several approaches to diagnosing and treating a health problem. And it's not always clear what choices are the best ones for you. You are
more likely to feel better about the chosen approach if it is the one best
suited to your needs and values. Sometimes the best choice is to say "no" to
care you don't need.
The best formula for making health decisions
is to combine the most reliable medical facts with your personal values. These
include your beliefs, fears, lifestyle, and experiences, and they all play a
role in helping you make decisions about your health.
Medical Information + Your Information = Wise Health Decisions
Skills for Making Wise Health Decisions
following are some simple steps for you to follow when you have a health
decision to make. Depending on the decision, the process may take a few
minutes, a few hours, or several weeks. Take as much time as you need to make
the decision that is right for you.
What are your choices?
Tell your doctor that you want to share in making the decision. Ask your doctor
to clearly state the decision that needs to be made and what your choices
Get the facts. Learn all about each
option by using resources like the library, your doctor, and reliable Web sites
you can trust. Make sure the information you collect is based on sound medical
research, not the results of a single study or facts published by a company
that will profit by your using its product.
What do you think? Consider your own needs and values and what you hope for as
the best possible outcome. Talk with family members and others who will be
affected by your decision. Then sort out the information you've gathered. Make
a list of pros and cons as you see them for each option. You may want to share
your list with your doctor to make sure you have all the information you
Try on a decision. Write down what you
expect will happen if you choose a particular option. Ask your doctor if what
you expect is reasonable. Ask again about the side effects, pain, recovery
time, cost, or long-term outcomes of that option. Then see if you still feel
it's the best choice for you.
Make an action plan. After you and your doctor have made a decision, find out what you
can do to make sure that you will have the best possible outcome. Write down
the steps that you need to take next. Think positively about your decision, and
do your part to ensure success by following your doctor's advice. Remember,
when you share in making a decision, you share the responsibility for the
The National Patient Safety Foundation 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.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.