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The Good News: Things Are Getting Better

You Can Help!

Health care providers and groups are working hard to improve health care quality. You can help, too. You can take steps to improve the quality of your own health care. Research has shown that if you are more involved in your health care, you can get better results and feel more satisfied. Here's what you can do:

  • Work with your doctor, nurse, and other health care providers to make decisions about your care.
  • Tell your doctor about all of the medicines you take. Be sure to include prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Don't forget to tell the doctor about any allergies or side effects you have had in the past from medicines. This is very important when your doctor gives you a new prescription.
  • Read the label on your prescription right away when you pick up from the drug store. Make sure it is what the doctor ordered for you.
  • If you have several health problems or are in a hospital, many people may be involved in your care. Make sure that someone (such as your personal doctor) is in charge of your care. Speak often with that person. Ask a family member or friend to be part of your health care team if you are very sick or need major surgery.
  • Ask questions, and keep asking them until you understand the answers. You have a right to speak with anyone who is involved with your care.
  • When you have an x-ray or laboratory test, don't assume that "no news is good news." Ask your doctor or nurse about when and how you will receive the results. Will it be in person, by mail, or by phone? If you don't receive the results when you expect them, contact your doctor and ask for them.
  • If you are having surgery, make sure that you, your doctor, and your surgeon all agree on what will be done. Find out what you can do before and after surgery to speed your recovery.
  • Ask your doctor what the scientific evidence has to say about your condition and treatment options. You can find more information online—fact sheets and other information on health care quality—by accessing the "Quality Assessment" section of the AHRQ Web site.
  • Know that "more is not always better." Be sure to find out why you need a test or treatment and how it can help you. You could be better off without it.
  • Find and use information about quality measures when making health care choices. This guide tells you how.

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AHRQ Advancing Excellence in Health Care