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Make Sure You Understand Your Treatment

For optimum health, you need to understand your health problem and your treatment plan, including how to take prescription medications.

These days, however, medical information is complex, and doctors, pharmacists, and other health care professionals don?t always explain information in a way the average person can understand.

In fact, if you often find your doctor?s explanations or instructions confusing, you?re not alone.

Ask to learn

Making sure you understand your diagnosis and treatment increases the chance your health will improve and reduces your risk for medical errors, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Asking your health care provider these questions during office visits can help:

  • What?s the name of my condition, and what does it mean?

  • What treatment do you recommend? What are the pros, cons, and costs of this treatment option?

  • Will I need any additional tests and, if so, what kind and when?

  • Are there any lifestyle changes I need to make?

  • What resources (for example, organizations, websites, and books) do you recommend for further information?

  • What are the most important things I can do to manage my condition?

Take notes on what your health care provider tells you, and ask questions if you don?t understand a term, the reason for the doctor?s recommendations, or any instructions.

Do your homework

When you get home, review your notes and instructions. If you don?t understand something, call the office and ask to speak with a nurse or your health care provider for clarification.

These are other things you should do:

  • Write down any information you find confusing in handouts your health care provider gives you. During your next office visit, ask your doctor or nurse to review your questions.

  • Follow your health care provider?s instructions. Take the full course of medication, and make sure you follow the prescribed diet or exercise routine.

  • Keep your health care provider informed of any changes in your condition or general health.

  • Read the label each time before you use a medicine. Be sure it?s right in five ways: the right medicine, for the right patient, in the right amount, at the right time, and in the right way.

  • Don?t stop taking a medication. If you have an unwanted effect from a medication, call your health care provider.

  • Call your health care provider if you?re having trouble sticking with your treatment plan. Ask for strategies to help you get on track.

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