Knowing Quality Health Care When You See It
Dec 29, 2011 05:09PM
By Sharon Campbell
Finding a provider that best fits your needs can seem a daunting quest, but it is very important to your health. It is a mistake to seek out the perfect healthcare provider, because no one can meet the unique needs of every patient. However, while there are no perfect providers or perfect patients, there is still a lot you can do to get the best possible care.
Healthcare providers include nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, physicians, naturopaths and chiropractors, among others. Insurance companies often drive our choices because they maintain lists of providers that are contracted under the plans, if we even have insurance, so choose carefully.
Are you passive or active healthcare consumer? The passive ones will expect providers to assume ultimate responsibility for their own care. By contrast, taking an active role means working with your health care provider to ensure that you get the best care you need and deserve.
Choosing the right provider takes some effort on the part of the patient. They should consider the expectations they have up front of the relationship, and then ask friends and family for recommendations. Research shows that this is the most common way to find a good fit.
Some people like to do research and study the background and experience of a provider, but remember that no matter how impressive the credentials; their personality will have a big influence on developing an effective partnership. Find out what the provider expects from you as a patient and schedule an appointment for a “get-acquainted” visit to discuss mutual expectations. The key to success is finding a compatible practitioner and developing a relationship before you become ill or injured.
Being a wise healthcare consumer requires you to have appropriate expectations of your provider. You can’t always look for an immediate cure, but you should expect an opportunity to ask questions and get a clear explanation of your status, in terms you understand. Educational information, resources to help you manage your care, referrals to specialists when appropriate, shared decision-making and confidentiality are all assets and qualities to look for.
Once a choice is made, you still have to be your own best advocate and actively participate in your care. Providers and patients are a team. If you have a provider that will not embrace you as a partner in the management of your care, find one that will. Providers should not take exception to valid questions or patronize you in any way.
Part of your responsibility is to prepare for the visit by having the appropriate information to answer the questions you will likely be asked. Record all your medications and doses and bring a list. Don’t expect the provider to have all the information about what has happened between your visits—your own answers and insight into your problem is invaluable in assisting the provider with ordering appropriate tests and making the proper diagnosis. Seventy percent of diagnoses are based on what patients communicate to their providers through questions and comments.
If you understand the process and feel comfortable with it, you are more likely to do your part to make things work. Be assertive without being aggressive. You need to be involved, so be a go-getter: don’t sit back and settle for mediocre care.
Sharon Campbell, WHNP-C, is a women’s health nurse practitioner and the owner of A New Creation Women’s Clinic, in Tucson. She volunteers with medical ministries, belongs to the Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce, Marana Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Women Business Owners. Campbell also speaks in public and writes for local publications. Contact her at 520-293-1117.