Our series continues with a step that helps you take action as you become a more empowered patient. While health insurance and other factors set certain limits on your choices, the more you know about your healthcare options in advance, the better.
Step 3: Action!
In many cases, you decide what doctor you go to, what hospital you check into, and even what treatment you receive. There are few things you can do to help you make better choices.
Research your hospital options.
There are sites that rank hospitals based on success rates, infection levels, and length of hospital stays. Contact your health insurance to discuss coverage. Research awards, recognition, and publication records of the doctors who perform the treatment you require. You can even ask about equipment and technology - do they have the most current MRI machine? The latest in infection-control materials?
- Consumer Reports Ratings (may require subscription)
- Hospital Compare
- The Joint Commission Quality Check
- HealthGrades, Inc.
- Hospital Safety Score
Research your doctor options.
Even if your primary-care physician is guiding you through your procedure, a different doctor may be performing the procedure or treatment. You can research doctors based on their board certification, their training, publication records, and even medical actions.
Research the research.
While it may be very overwhelming at first, try reading the current research about your condition. Even if you don't understand most of what you read, you will begin to pick up on terms and concepts that may help you down the line. You will begin to see the universities or hospitals where current research seems to be coming from, even begin to see the same physicians names popping up. You will begin to learn about common treatments, medicines, and trials. This is all information that can help you make better decisions, or at least, ask better questions.
- Google Scholar
- Your local librarian can be your best resource. Check your public library, any area community college libraries, university libraries, or medical school libraries.
- Don’t forget the value of reviews and feedback from your friends and even their friends. Ask around and see if anyone has experience with a particular test, a certain facility, or a specific physician.
- Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask. This is how we learn and knowing is the best defense.
This step can be seen as an ongoing process you may return to on your healthcare journey. Next week's step will help you keep your growing research collection in order. Stay tuned for Step 4: Record-keeping!
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in January 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.