Involved Health Care Consumer
By Carolyn M.
October 30, 2007
Most of us won’t
buy a car until we get some basic information.
For example, we want to know about its safety
features and the costs of repairs.
But for many
years, we haven’t been able to get this kind of
information about health care. Being an involved
consumer is easy when you’re buying a new car.
It’s much harder when you’re trying to find
high-quality health care.
This is beginning
to change, but I wish it were changing faster.
The quality of our health system is not as good
as it should be. Clinicians and health care
organizations are working to create systems that
make safe, high-quality care routine, but
progress has been slower than all of us want.
You may have
heard that about 100,000 patients die each year
in hospitals from medical mistakes. Another
study showed that when patients go to a doctor’s
office they get the right care only about half
of the time.
improvingby about 3 percent a year, according
to a recent report from my agency. But we need
to do much better.
You can play an
important role in pushing the health care system
to improve by being more involved in your own
Today, we know
more about the types of care that you need to
stay healthy. Also, we know more about the kinds
of treatment you might need and how to measure
the quality of care that hospitals provide.
health care comes in many different forms, but
not all of it is good. You’ve probably seen
articles or TV programs that describe a
"ground-breaking" test or procedure or rank the
"best" doctors and hospitals in your area.
Good health care
information is available, fortunately.
To improve the
care you receive, organizations have developed
information about medical conditions and
hospital quality. These groups do not gain
financially when you make a decision about
different treatment options or choose a
particular hospital. This information can be
found on the Internet on your home computer or
at your local library.
Here are some
places to get information about medical
conditions and hospital quality:
Healthfinder.gov: The U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services
developed this Web site for consumers. It
provides links to more than 1,500
government Web site provides information on
how well hospitals treat patients who have
been admitted for certain medical
Quality Check.org: This Web site
is a guide to health care organizations and
is sponsored by an organization called the
Joint Commission. You can search by city and
State, or by name and ZIP Code (up to 250
Nonprofit Organizations: Many
nonprofit organizations provide education
and support to patients and their families
about certain diseases. They can direct you
to physicians who are experts in treating
information is an important first step to get
better health care. Use this information to ask
your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist questions
about your condition. You need to become more
involved in your own health care to have a
better chance of getting the right treatment at
the right time in the right place.
I’m Dr. Carolyn
Clancy, and that’s my advice on how to navigate
the health care system.
Current as of October 2007
Becoming an Involved Health Care Consumer.
Navigating the Health Care System: Advice
Columns from Dr. Carolyn Clancy, October 30,
2007. Agency for Healthcare Research and
Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/cc/cc103007.htm