How you can take an active role in your health

Being proactive and teaming with your doctor can improve overall health.

When interacting with their family doctor, a lot of patients may approach this relationship in a passive role.

In this dynamic, the doctor recommends a course of action or treatment, and the patient complies — and there are many conditions and instances in which this dynamic is required and benefits the patient.

But when it comes to their general and overall health, both patients and doctors are moving toward patients taking an active role in their health.

“Finding a doctor who you are comfortable with, who listens to your concerns and strives to help you work toward your health goals is key to a successful physician-patient partnership,” said Dr. Rachel Young, family medicine physician with McLaren Oakland.

In this active role, patients become more engaged in their health — doctors discuss treatments for certain conditions with their patient, and the pair make a decision together as a team — shared decision making.

Patients are also encouraged to learn as much as they can about their health and any conditions they may have, and also bear some responsibility in the management of those conditions.

Studies have shown that this approach to their healthcare have aided patients in a number of ways, from improved outcomes, increased satisfaction with their care and even saving money by reducing medical costs.

How to take an active role

Know family history and note any risk factors

A family history of certain ailments, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and even instances of strokes and heart attacks, can increase the chances of those attacks or conditions affecting later generations. The risk for these conditions can also be increased with certain risk factors (such as smoking is a risk factor for stoke, along with high blood pressure), which should be noted and discussed with a primary care physician in a shared effort to address that risk.

Track health and note symptoms

Track your general wellness and how you’re feeling overall — perhaps by keeping a journal — and note any and all changes and developments, no matter how minor.

Take these notes to doctors’ appointments and be sure to note if symptoms or changes developed after certain activities or in a particular environment.

Look up information and bring questions

Using credible and trusted sources to research your conditions (or conditions for which you might be experiencing risk factors) to learn more about the conditions in order to have meaningful conversations about the condition.

Develop a rapport with your doctor

Trust is paramount in a doctor-patient relation. Patients who are aiming to take more of a team approach in their health need to have a physician they feel comfortable with, and who is comfortable with this approach.

Feeling comfortable with a doctor and having a doctor who understands this active approach is crucial to it working for the doctor’s and patient’s shared benefit.

Have a conversation with him or her and help them understand the kind of information needed to help in decision making.