Angie's List: Taking charge of your health care

There's a difference between being a patient and being an empowered patient. According to the consumer review website Angie's List, that difference could drastically change the quality of the heath care you're receiving.

Angie Hicks is the creator of Angie's List.

"An empowered patient is someone who takes control of their health care. They understand their health insurance policy, they do go to the doctor ready to ask questions about what's being prescribed and why," says Hicks.

Here's how Angie's List describes an empowered patient:

  • An empowered patient takes control of their health care by asking questions.
  • An empowered patient researches health topics online.
  • An empowered patient participates in treatment decisions.
  • An empowered patient understands the costs of their care and insurance.
  • An empowered patient tells their health care provider the truth about their health.
  • An empowered patient knows their family medical history.
  • An empowered patient learns how to avoid unsafe health care environments.

If those aren't things you are already doing, Angie's List has some tips to help you take charge of your health care:

  • Do your Homework: Be sure to check that your physician is properly licensed and board certified with no disciplinary actions.
  • Be assertive, not aggressive: You should oversee your health by asking about different options, but don't be overbearing by viewing your doctor as the enemy.
  • Provide all necessary information: You should inform your physician about other medical experts you are seeing, any medical allergies you have and of medications you are taking. These items are important to disclose in order to ensure the most effective treatment.
  • Be prepared: You can prepare for your visit by bringing a list of questions you'd like to ask. However, you should prioritize the questions as there may not be time to get through all of them. If possible, schedule your doctor's appointment first thing in the morning before the doctor has a chance to fall behind.
  • Check for mistakes: To avoid potential safety issues, you should regularly obtain and review your medical records for any errors or omissions.
  • Embrace support staff: Don't hesitate to interact with nurses and physician assistants. These trained professionals can answer many of your health care questions.
  • Record Your Visit: If you are worried about absorbing all of the information your doctor will give you, bring a recording device or take notes while the doctor is talking. It may even be beneficial to invite a family member or friend to tag along to your appointments.
  • Speak up: If you repeat aloud what your doctor says, it will increase the likelihood that you'll retain the information.
  • Give feedback: You can't expect a physician to improve if he or she isn't aware if there is a problem.
  • Ask about cost and shop around: You should make an effort to understand what you pay for health care and insurance. Your doctor should be willing to discuss test and treatment options with you.
  • Move on: If you aren't seeing eye-to-eye with your physician after trying these tips, it may be time to find a new doctor.