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Be an informed patient – health care responsibility

By Allison Linville

Patient responsibility

One of the most important aspects of health care is the personal responsibility we take for our care. Unless we are active partners in our care, it is possible to go see the doctor and not get better. Imagine if you were given an antibiotic to treat an infection, but never took the pills. The infection would never go away.

In trying to achieve good health care outcomes, we increasingly realize that an important part of the puzzle is patient responsibility. For example, if a patient experiences multiple health problems related to weight – such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and joint pain – the doctor will likely advise the patient to begin a walking program, to attend a wellness class and to begin eating more healthfully. However, if this advice is ignored, it is like not taking the antibiotic – the patient will not get better.

Being an informed patient and recognizing personal responsibility for health care and wellness means using the resources provided by a physician, therapist, nurse, pharmacist or other medical expert to improve personal health and wellness. Our health is not the responsibility of someone else – each patient is an essential part of the care team – and the patient’s effort is directly linked to his or her ability to achieve improved health, recovery or wellness.

Taking responsibility – such as writing notes or following up with a phone call to ask questions – is essential for your personal wellness.

How the hospital can help

Sue Conners, orthopedic coordinator and discharge nurse at North Valley Hospital, described how the hospital works with patients to ensure that care is transitioned seamlessly after a hospital visit. She said, “The discharge process starts when a patient is admitted. Providers talk with patients and family members to see what the patient needs at home for recovery, what resources they have and what we can do to help them succeed.”

Sue explained that the hospital addresses all of the components of a patient’s diagnosis during their hospital stay to help prepare the patient to take on responsibility for their own care when they go home. Patients work with multiple departments including nursing, dietary, physicians, pharmacy and therapy to ensure they have all the resources and information they need.

As Sue explained, North Valley Hospital has a goal of creating a clear, easy to understand discharge process for patients. This collaborative effort ensures that when patients leave the hospital, they have tools they need to assume responsibility for their continued health.

“We work hard at discharge to provide all the information and materials patients need to take care of themselves. And we also want patients to be empowered to reach out to us, even after their hospitalization, if they need more information or assistance in coordinating their care,” Sue stated.

Taking charge of personal health and wellness

To be an informed patient, Sue recommended a few tips to remember. Mostly, don’t be afraid to ask questions or call back after leaving the hospital, pharmacy or doctor’s office. In addition, she said, “Use the knowledge we give you in the hospital to be successful in healing and health.”

Tactics for being an informed patient include:
  • Ask questions.
  • Take notes.
  • Bring family to listen to instructions.
  • Take advantage of literature provided by nursing and therapy.
  • Write down your questions so you remember to ask them.
  • Call back if you have other questions.