The most important action you can take to be involved in your own health care is to be informed.
The key to making informed decisions about your health care is to ask questions and to seek further information when necessary. Your health professional should make time to explain the treatment options and answer your questions. You may ask to have a family member or support person involved in that conversation if you wish. You have a right to request additional support if you do not speak English or if you have challenges with communication.
Here are some tips to help you communicate better with members of your health care team:
- Write a list of questions before your appointment so you are prepared. It’s hard to think of everything while in the appointment.
- Bring a notebook and write down the health professional’s answers or, even better, ask a family member or friend to do it for you. That will allow you to read the information later, taking the time you need to process it.
- Ask questions and request answers that you can understand. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if an answer doesn’t make sense to you, if you are having trouble understanding an explanation or hearing unfamiliar words. Your health professional may be able to draw a picture or give an example that will help you understand.
- Ask for a support person to be there with you, if you wish.
- Ask for the results of any test or procedure and request an explanation of what the results mean for you.
- Ask your health professional where you can find additional information or printed materials about your condition. Many health services have this information readily available.
- Talk with your health care team about information you have found on the internet or in books or magazines. Not all information is accurate and reliable. Some information from overseas may not be relevant to Australia.
- Keep an up-to-date list of all the medications you are taking.
- Keep information with you if you have any drug allergies.
- Talk with your health professional about your options if you need to be admitted to hospital or be referred to another health care provider.
- Let your health professional know if you are interested in seeking a second opinion. Most of them will understand the value of a second opinion, and they may even be able to recommend another health professional.
Healthdirect Australia has a very useful guide on questions to ask your doctor.
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