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NEWS | Nov. 30, 2016

It’s your health - be involved

By Col. Craig Lambert 628th ABW Medical Group

There are many healthcare options these days—patient-centered care, medical home, access to care, population health, etc.  and the fact is, we will all need healthcare at some point. However, what is our level of accountability?  The nation is moving into a system focused on health and not healthcare, but is that the only significant change for healthcare delivery? Our environment is flooded with new technologies, smartphone applications and millions of healthcare information postings on the internet. However, research indicates that less than 40% of healthcare information posted on the internet  is actually accurate and timely. This demonstrates why physicians and providers are so important to healthcare. 

When you think about healthcare, do you normally think first of your caregiver or yourself?  As a patient, what is your role? The following are my recommendations:

1) Patient engagement:  Become interested in your own health and lifestyle.  No one can take better care of yourself than you.  Sometimes we need to be reminded that genetics and environment are factors—your choices make a significant difference.  Learn about personal health issues  by not only researching the web but through dialogue with your healthcare team.  Additionally, take the actions recommended by your healthcare team—the recommendations were made for a reason--ensure you are following medication instructions, diet regimes, exercise prescriptions, follow-up visits and referral requirements.  

2) Wellness and preventative health checks:  Follow recommended wellness and periodic health checks from your healthcare team and national guidelines.  Screening tools like mammographies, colonoscopies, preventative health exams, dental exams, etc. definitely save lives.  These actions often identify health issues early enough for effective interventions.  Preventative checks, routinely ignored by patients, can make the difference in health outcomes.       

3) Over-communicate:  Our healthcare is dependent upon multiple information systems and caregivers working together across institutional barriers.  Healthcare and treatment information can be fragmented. Normally, the only constant through the process is the patient. I encourage you to maintain a strong communications relationship with your primary care team.  This team serves as your care gatekeeper  and the front-line of information needed to maintain your health.  Secure messaging, like MiCare, is a great way to communicate effectively with your team.        

4) Ask questions and ensure you make your desires known:  A more informed patient normally makes for a patient who can make educated healthcare decisions.  You must also clearly communicate  your healthcare and treatment desires to your care team.  Remember, the patient is always the focus but the caregiver is a highly trained, well-educated expert, typically with years of experience.  Be active in discussions about your care while being a good listener.  The best health outcomes are usually created jointly by patient and caregiver.       

Quality healthcare many times gets viewed through the lens of customer service—“were they nice on the phone, did they smile at me, did I wait a long time, etc.?” Customer service will always be important in healthcare.  However, I recommend you evaluate your health as the most important measure of quality care. You have a significant role in your own health.  Take charge, get engaged, complete preventative screenings, ask questions and have dialogue with your healthcare team.  Health always starts with YOU!