Wellness: Today's Medicine

How to Evaluate Your Health Care Providers

What does good-quality health care mean to you? It may mean being able to get an appointment with your health care provider quickly, having a health care provider who is willing to spend time with you, or being treated nicely by the staff at his or her office.

These things are important. But another factor that’s critical to your health is receiving good-quality clinical care. That includes having the right tests for your health condition and being prescribed effective treatment. This type of care plays a big role in how well your health is managed. To make sure you’re getting high-quality care, ask yourself if your health care provider is meeting your needs in these five areas.

Getting care when you need it

How available is your health care provider? How many of these statements are true for you?

  • I can get an appointment within a reasonable amount of time for nonurgent care (such as a routine checkup or follow-up appointment).

  • The office staff is helpful and responsive.

  • A nurse or other on-call provider is available after hours.

Communication

The way you and your health care provider talk with each other can affect how you take care of your health. Here are some important factors to consider about your interaction:

  • My health care provider encourages me to ask questions.

  • He or she takes the time to listen to me.

  • He or she makes it easy for me to understand things.

  • My health care provider includes me in making decisions about my care.

  • He or she treats me with respect.

Trust is an important part of your relationship with your health care provider. If you feel uncomfortable with your health care provider or feel that he or she doesn’t respect you, it might be time to seek a new one.

Preventive care

Does your health care provider order the preventive tests and screenings you need to stay healthy? Examples of these tests include:

  • Mammograms

  • Pap tests

  • Prostate exams

  • Cholesterol tests

  • Colon cancer screening

Tests to monitor a medical condition are important, too. Ask your health care provider which preventive tests you need and how often.

Treatment decisions

If you need to have a certain type of test or surgery or use a new type of medication, it’s your health care provider’s job to make sure you understand what’s involved. Some things he or she should talk with you about include:

  • Why you need the test or treatment

  • What the benefits and risks are

  • Costs associated with the treatment

  • Potential side effects

  • Other treatment options

Training and expertise

Does your health care provider have the right training and expertise to serve your needs? If not, does he or she refer you to appropriate specialists? People with a heart condition may do best under the care of a cardiologist, for example. People with diabetes may need to see a diabetes nurse educator, a registered nurse with training to care for and teach people with diabetes. You may want to ask your health plan if a list of health care providers who meet certain service standards is available.

Take charge of your health

No one health care provider can meet everyone's needs. You have to decide which qualities matter most to you. In today's world, medical visits can be rushed and important things forgotten or overlooked. Make sure you and your health care provider can work together so that you get the quality of care you deserve.

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