These tips come from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in Rockville, Maryland, USA.

  1. Be an active member of your healthcare team. Patients who are involved with their own care tend to get better results.

  2. Make sure all your doctors know about everything you are taking. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements, including vitamins and herbs.

  3. Make sure your doctor knows about any allergies and adverse reactions you have had to medicines.

  4. When your doctor writes you a prescription, make sure you can read it.

  5. Ask for information about your medicines in terms you can understand. Ask what the medicine is for, how should you take it, for how long, if there are any side effects and what to do if you have any of the side effects.

  6. When you pick up your medicine from the pharmacy or chemist, ask, 'Is this the medicine my doctor prescribed?' Make absolutely sure it is.

  7. If you have any questions about the directions on your medicine, ask. Does 'four doses daily' mean a dose every six hours, around the clock or four doses during normal waking hours? (Note: I was once given a prescription for my heart condition. The bottle said, 'Take 13 pills in one day', where it should have been one pill a day for 13 days.)

  8. Ask for written information about the side effects of your medication.

  9. If you are in a hospital, consider asking all healthcare workers who have direct contact with you to wash their hands. (Note: Staph infections are spread quickly, and can be very dangerous.)

  10. If you have a choice, choose a hospital that has performed the procedure for many patients. Experience is one of the best indicators of the healthcare you can expect.

  11. When you are discharged, ask your doctor to explain the treatment plan you will use at home.

  12. If you are having surgery, make sure you, your doctor and your surgeon all agree on the entire procedure to be performed.

  13. Speak up if you have any questions or have any concerns.

  14. Make sure that someone, such as your personal doctor, is in charge of your health care if you have multiple health problems or if you are hospitalized.

  15. Make sure all health professionals have the necessary information. Never assume they know everything about you, or they have the information from other healthcare professionals.

  16. Ask a family member or friend to be your advocate and help get things done, and speak on your behalf when you cannot.

From the website, originally seen in Ann Lander's column.

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