Top Ten Things a Patient or Family Member can do to Ensure Quality Care

Research has shown that patient and family involvement in their own health care improves outcomes and patient satisfaction.

  1. Ask a nurse or doctor to answer questions that you have before, during, and after your care experience.

  2. Become educated about your health care insurance policy covered benefits.

  3. Learn about scientific evidence and the most current treatment options related to your condition by reading articles or information on the Internet.

  4. Make a list of questions in advance of your medical appointment to ask about your condition and care options.

  5. Practice telling doctors about your symptoms, and how you are feeling. Practice asking questions when you need more information.

  6. Keep a notebook of current medications, specialists, and other relevant information to discuss with a doctor. If hospitalized, be sure to ask every time you are given a medicine what you are being given.

  7. Bring an advocate/friend who can listen, take notes, and help ask questions. Remember that family members are there to support you; inform them when issues are too difficult for you to handle alone.

  8. Be honest with yourself and your provider about your needs, expectations, and feelings about your care. Be specific about what treatments you want or do not want. If you are unsure, ask for time to think about your decision prior to signing consent forms, and speak to your physician about those uncertainties.

  9. Keep communication open at all times. Find out the appropriate channels so that questions and concerns may be brought to your care team when your main contact is unavailable. Make sure you have designated "power of medical decision making" in writing in the unlikely event that you cannot communicate those wishes — and give a copy to your doctor.

  10. Ask for and review written discharge instructions for medications, return appointments, and information for follow-up and ongoing care.

(These "Top Tens" and Checklists are adapted from Jeppson, E. Thomas, J. (1994). Essential Allies: Families as Advisors, courtesy of the Institute for Family-Centered Care, Bethesda, MD.)

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