Skip Navigation

Take Charge of Your Health Care

male doctor

The Basics

Speak up and ask questions. When you play an active role in your health care, you can improve the quality of the care you and your family get.

Most people depend on different doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and insurance programs for their health care. It’s a team effort, and you are the most important member of the team.

To take charge of your health care:

  • Keep track of important health information.
  • See a doctor regularly for checkups.
  • Be prepared for medical appointments.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse questions.

Take Action!

Follow these steps to play an active role in your health care.

Keep track of important health information.
Keep all your health information in one place to make it easier to manage your health care. Take the information with you to every medical appointment.

To start your own personal health record, write down:

  • Your name, birth date, and blood type (ask your doctor or nurse if you don’t know)
  • The name and phone number of a friend or relative to call if there’s an emergency
  • Telephone numbers and addresses of places you go to for health care, including your pharmacy
  • Dates and results of checkups and screening tests
  • List of shots (and the dates you got them)
  • Medicines you take, how much you take, and why you take them
  • Any health conditions you have, including allergies

Know your family health history.
The health history of your family is also an important part of your personal health record. Use this family health history tool to keep track of conditions that run in your family.

See a doctor regularly for checkups.
Your doctor or nurse can help you stay healthy. Adults typically need a checkup every 1 to 5 years, depending on age and overall health. Regular checkups can help the doctor or nurse find problems early, when they may be easier to treat.

What about cost?
Many insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare, will cover the cost of recommended screening tests and shots. Also, many preventive services are covered under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010.

Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get screenings and shots at no cost to you. For infants to adults age 21, the Affordable Care Act also covers regular checkups. Check with your insurance provider.

If you don’t have insurance, you can still get health care. Use this tool to find insurance options for your family. For low-cost or free services, find a health center near you and make an appointment.

Use this guide to help you choose quality health care.

Write down your questions ahead of time.
Write down your questions and take the list with you to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist. Use this tool to build your list of questions.

Make the most of doctor visits.
Before your appointment, check out these tips for talking to your doctor or nurse [PDF - 18 KB]. Take your list of questions and personal health record with you. You may want to bring a family member or friend with you to take notes.

Be sure to talk about any changes since your last visit, like:

  • New medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter medicines, herbs or home remedies, and vitamins
  • Recent illness or surgery
  • Health concerns or issues
  • Health information you’ve found on the Internet or heard from others

Follow up after your appointment.
It can take time to make the healthy changes you talked about with your doctor or nurse. Remember to:

  • Call if you have any questions or side effects from medicine.
  • Schedule follow-up appointments for tests or lab work, if you need to.

Note:  Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat ReaderĀ®.
If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the ReaderĀ®.

You May Also Be Interested In

Content last updated on: September 27, 2012

National Health Information Center

P.O. Box 1133, Washington, DC 20013-1133