Going to a Doctor’s Appointment:
• Before your next visit to the doctor’s office, write down all questions and concerns you might have so you won’t forget to ask them.
• Learn about your illness and take an active role in every aspect of your care. For example, if you have high blood pressure, write down your blood pressure readings, as well as their time and date, and take them to your next appointment. This will allow your doctor to determine if your medication is working properly and, if needed, make any necessary changes.
• Make a list of all the medicines you are currently taking, including their brand and generic names, amounts and how often you take them.
• If your doctor ordered any laboratory tests during your last visit, make sure to get them done.
• Be honest with yourself. Think about the things you are not doing right or in the way your doctor prescribed. By lying to your doctor about dieting or exercising you are not fooling them, you are only fooling yourself.
Going on a new medication:
• Understand and discuss with your doctor why you must take the new medicine and what benefits it will bring to your health.
• Every medicine has side effects. Be sure to ask which are the most common and in what situations should you immediately consult your doctor. Always remember to tell your physician about any other medicines, vitamins or herbal products you might be taking in order to prevent any negative or dangerous interactions with the new medication.
• Before starting a new treatment, always tell your doctor if you have any allergies or have had any reactions to other medications.
• Know and understand the name, amount, at what time(s) and for how long should you take a certain medicine, as well as any other special indications (for example, if it should be taken with meals).
• Ask your doctor if he can provide you with free samples of the prescribed medication. If the product is expensive there may be alternatives that are also effective but less costly, such as generic drugs.
The Smart Patient’s Checklist
By María José Zamora, M.D.
Actively participate in all aspects of your health care and help prevent errors by following these habits!
• When in doubt, ask! If you still don’t understand or have any additional doubts ask again, as many times as necessary! Do not feel embarrassed to ask any questions you might have about your condition, about procedures or tests being done or about the medicines you are taking.
•Always pay attention to the care you receive! If you are hospitalized, make sure your caregivers do not confuse you with another patient. Always make sure you are getting the right treatments and medications at the usual times. If you think something is not right say so immediately!
• Know your rights as a patient. Know the names of the doctors and nurses who are taking care of you. If they don’t do it, do not be afraid to remind them to wash their hands. Carefully read all medical and legal forms, making sure you understand exactly what you are agreeing to before signing them; if you do not understand something or if they are in another language, you have the right to get help from someone who speaks your language!
For more information on the Speak UpTM program sponsored by The Joint Commission, please visit the site: www.jointcommission.org/speakup.aspx