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Home > Health Library > Smart Decisions: Know Your Options
Each Decision Point is designed to guide you through a key health decision. Decision Points combine medical information with your personal values to help you make a wise health decision. See a list of:
Throughout your life you have to make health decisions for yourself and your family. The decisions you make influence your overall well-being as well as the quality and cost of your care. In general, people who work with their doctors to make health decisions are happier with the care they receive and the results they achieve. It is important to share in every decision about your health.
Good health decisions can help you reduce costs and get better care. A good decision takes into account:
Too much care can be just as bad as—or worse than—too little. Most medicines can have side effects. Medical tests can give false results that lead to the wrong care. Surgery almost always has risks. And anytime you get care, there is a chance of error.
When your doctor suggests or orders a medicine, surgery, a test, or any other kind of care, ask why you need it and what would happen if you waited. If you don't need it now, you might want to wait.
But also remember that there can be costs to doing nothing. The "wait and see" option is not always the best. If you don't get care when you need it and a health problem gets worse, you may face higher costs than you would have if you had taken care of the problem sooner.
Asking why can help you and your doctor make the decision that's right for you.
Every treatment choice has pros and cons. It's up to you to know what they are. Your doctor can be a big help here, as can this website.
Partner with your doctor to help you understand what a decision might mean for you now and in the long run.
People value things differently. When you have a health care decision to make, you have to balance issues like:
You are the only person who knows what mix is right for you. You may be willing to go through a very risky surgery if it could cure a serious health problem. Or you may be willing to put up with some pain if it means you can avoid a treatment with bad side effects.
For many decisions, these issues are just as important as the medical facts. They are part of what makes a decision right for you. They affect whether you get the care you want at a cost that seems reasonable to you.
Each Decision Point is designed to guide you through a key health decision, combining medical information with your personal values to make a wise health decision. See a list of Decision Points about medical tests.
Medical tests are important tools, but they have limits. Informed consumers know medical tests have costs and risks as well as benefits.
Use this medical test information form to help you.
If a test seems costly, risky, or not likely to change the recommended treatment, ask your doctor if you can avoid it. Try to agree on the best approach. No test can be done without your permission, and you have the right to refuse a test.
If you agree to a test, ask what you can do to reduce the chance of errors. Should you restrict food, alcohol, exercise, or medicines before the test? After the test, ask to review the results. Take notes for your home records. If the results are unexpected and the error rate of the test is high, consider redoing the test before basing further treatment on the results.
Each Decision Point is designed to guide you through a key health decision, combining medical information with your personal values to make a wise health decision. See a list of Decision Points about medicines.
The first rule of medicines is to know why you need each medicine before you use it.
Use this medicine information form to help you.
Each Decision Point is designed to guide you through a key health decision, combining medical information with your personal values to make a wise health decision. See a list of Decision Points about surgeries.
Surgery tends to come with high costs and risks. When the choice to have surgery is not clear, good decisions are even more important.
Use this surgery information form to help you.
For more information, see the topic Surgery: What to Expect.
Each Decision Point is designed to guide you through a key health decision, combining medical information with your personal values to make a wise health decision. See a list of Decision Points about treatments and other issues.
Every solution to a health issue has benefits and risks. Only you can decide if the benefits are worth the risks.
Use this treatment information form to help you.
Other Works Consulted
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (accessed November 2012). Questions are the answer: Better communication. Better care. Available online: http://www.ahrq.gov/questions.
Anspaugh DJ, et al. (2011). Becoming a responsible health care consumer. In Wellness: Concepts and Applications, 8th ed., pp. 453–484. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Current as of:
August 22, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Adam Husney MD - Family MedicineCatherine D. Serio PhD - Behavioral Health
Current as of: August 22, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Catherine D. Serio PhD - Behavioral Health
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