Home > Take charge of your health by having an active role in your medical care - By Rhonda Moore Johnson, M.D., M.P.H. -Medical Director, Highmark Inc.

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Take charge of your health by having an active role in your medical care

 By Rhonda Moore Johnson, M.D., M.P.H.
Medical Director, Highmark Inc.
 Health literacy is an important issue that is often overlooked in our country. It is easy take for granted that everyone is able to read, understand and act upon health information they are given. Unfortunately, too many people struggle with making good decisions about their health because they don’t understand the complexities associated with their care. Limited health literacy can affect one’s ability to do the following:
  • Fill out complex forms
  • Locate doctors’ offices and hospitals
  • Share personal information such as health history
  • Take care of yourself
  • Manage chronic diseases
  • Understand how to take medicine
In order to attract more attention to the importance of understandable health information, October was designated as Health Literacy Month in 1999. Since then, workshops, conferences and community events have been held each October to promote the importance of understanding health information.
At Highmark, we believe the best way for our members to get the best health care possible is to take an active role in the decisions made about their care. In other words, we want them to have a greater hand in their health. Here are some tips that will help you understand more about the care you are receiving from your doctor.
When you have a doctor’s appointment, make sure you know what your symptoms are and tell your doctor your personal information. Don’t wait to be asked. Also, always bring a list of the drugs you are taking and know the ones to which you are allergic. In addition, remember to tell your doctor about any supplements or alternative medicines you are taking.
During your doctor’s visit, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and write down questions before your visit. List the most important ones first and make sure they get asked and answered. If possible, bring somebody along to help you understand or remember the answers. Take notes and let your doctor know if you need more time. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for written instructions for new medicines or treatment plans. Often, brochures or instructional and informative CDs, DVDs or audio- or videotapes are available. Make sure to ask for them.
After your visit to the doctor, call his or her office if you have any questions. Also, call if your symptoms get worse or if you have problems with your medicine. If you had tests and do not hear from your doctor, call for your test results. In addition, don’t wait to make an appointment at the lab or to see a specialist should you be advised by your doctor to do so.
Going forward, make sure you get high-quality health care by becoming more informed and taking an active role in the decisions made about your care. Take charge of your health.
For more information on health care quality, visit http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/qualcare.html.
Dr. Rhonda Moore Johnson is the medical director of health equity and quality services at Highmark Inc., an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. She leads Highmark’s effort to reduce racial and ethnic health care disparities among Highmark’s members through clinical interventions and improvements in health literacy, language access and health-plan cultural competency.
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