Tribune Print Share Text

Compelling reasons to be involved in your health care decisions

Created date

June 25th, 2013
Matt Narrett, M.D., is chief medical officer for Erickson Living and leads the medical team at all Erickson Living communities. He received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and has been providing care for seniors for over three decades. The world of health care is changing, and these changes have affected the doctor-patient relationship. It s no longer about the doctor having all the knowledge about your health conditions and the control of your treatment plan. It s more like a collaboration a shared relationship that gives you the opportunity to make informed decisions about your health care. Emerging research shows that this is what patients want an equal say in their care and a personal doctor who knows them well and with whom they communicate regularly.

Patient engagement

Working toward this type of therapeutic relationship means you must understand your role and have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to actively participate. This, in part, involves asking a lot of questions, which is something patients haven t usually done in the past. Surveys show that people ask an average of only four questions during a typical office visit (women ask the most and men ask the least). Once you have the right knowledge and skills, you are ready to engage in your care. The term patient engagement means participating in your health care decision-making, such as regularly reviewing the information in your chart and tailoring treatment to meet your needs, values, and preferences. Patients who are engaged in their care have higher satisfaction scores with regard to the care they receive, and doctors who use this model of care feel more satisfied with the patient relationship. Another interesting benefit is that it saves money. Research reveals that patients who are not actively engaged have personal health care costs that are up to 20% higher than patients who are engaged. But does this engagement process really make a difference to your health? Research shows that engaged patients tend to adopt healthy behaviors, such as exercising and eating the right foods. They also participate more in preventive care strategies, such as screenings and immunizations, and adhere more closely to their treatment regimen. All of these behaviors produce results one study showed that people with diabetes who were actively engaged had a 13% decrease in their hemoglobin A1c levels a key marker of how well diabetes is being managed. Talk to your doctor about how you can become more involved. Don t be afraid to ask questions about your medical conditions and treatment. Review your record with your doctor. Engage in your health care and you will see positive changes in your life. In good health, Dr. Narrett