Nancy Rudner: Tips to take control of your health care

You have to be your own healthcare advocate and speak up. Your life depends on it.

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  • | 8:22 a.m. October 15, 2015
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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You have to be your own healthcare advocate and speak up. Your life depends on it. Keep in mind all the ways communication can break down in health care.

Partner with your health care practitioner

Remember all those questions you wanted to ask your practitioner at your last office visit? And how they just seemed to fly away from memory when you put on that paper gown? Bring your written list of questions and go through them. Don’t wait until the provider has his or her hand on the doorknob. Take charge and be sure to get your questions out. It is not that your care team does not want to answer your questions, it is just that they don’t know who has questions and who does not and in the shuffle of getting people in and out of rooms and procedures, sometimes they forget to ask. So bring your list.

The National Patient Safety Foundation ( urges patients to ask three key questions:

  1. What is my main problem?
  2. What do I need to do?
  3. Why is it important for me to do this?

Be sure you understand your problem and how you can learn more. Find out if there are good websites (some are not good) and classes, such as diabetes education programs, that can help.

Be sure you understand how you can best help yourself to better health. What tests do you need? What should you eat? When should you take the medicine? When should you come back?

For any procedure, referral, or medication your practitioner recommends, be sure you understand what it is for. For tests and procedures, ask if the information from the test would change your care and if you really need it.

Learn about your options before you make decisions regarding providers, tests, treatments, and other parts of your care. If your problem is complex, keep a notebook with information and notes. Consider bringing someone with you to office visits to take notes for you.


Ask about generic medications. Eight out of 10 drugs taken in the U.S. now are generics. Generics tend to cost less but are just as effective as the brand drugs. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) regulates generics just as it regulates brand drugs; they all must meet rigorous standards for safety, quality, and potency. The FDA checks to be sure generic drugs have the same active ingredient, strength, and dosage as the brand name product.

Also, bring the latest version of the drug list from your insurance. Each health plan has a different selection of medicines that are the lowest and highest copay levels. Having that list with you can help your provider prescribe the drugs with the lower copays.

Every day

Keep a list of your medications, health problems, and key phone numbers with you. Animals can have microchips with key information, but for everyone else, keeping a simple list written on an index card can help.

Nancy Rudner is a nurse and president of Health Action(, offering workplace health consulting and nurse coaching.


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