Making Wise Health Decisions

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Making Wise Health Decisions

Topic Overview

Throughout your life you will have to make health decisions for yourself and your family. The decisions you make will influence your overall well-being as well as the quality and cost of your care. People who learn as much as they can about their choices often are more confident about the decisions they make. And in general, people who work with their doctors to make health decisions are happier with the care they receive and the results they achieve.

Why should you partner with your doctor to make decisions? Aren't you paying him or her to know what to do? There are often several approaches to diagnosing and treating a health problem. And it's not always clear what choices are the best ones for you. You are more likely to feel better about the chosen approach if it is the one best suited to your needs and values. Sometimes the best choice is to say "no" to care you don't need.

The best formula for making health decisions is to combine the most reliable medical facts with your personal values. These include your beliefs, fears, lifestyle, and experiences, and they all play a role in helping you make decisions about your health.

Put more simply:

Medical Information + Your Information = Wise Health Decisions

Skills for Making Wise Health Decisions

The following are some simple steps for you to follow when you have a health decision to make. Depending on the decision, the process may take a few minutes, a few hours, or several weeks. Take as much time as you need to make the decision that is right for you.

  1. What are your choices? Tell your doctor that you want to share in making the decision. Ask your doctor to clearly state the decision that needs to be made and what your choices are.
  2. Get the facts. Learn all about each option by using resources like the library, your doctor, and reliable Web sites you can trust. Make sure the information you collect is based on sound medical research, not the results of a single study or facts published by a company that will profit by your using its product.
  3. What do you think? Consider your own needs and values and what you hope for as the best possible outcome. Talk with family members and others who will be affected by your decision. Then sort out the information you've gathered. Make a list of pros and cons as you see them for each option. You may want to share your list with your doctor to make sure you have all the information you need.
  4. Try on a decision. Write down what you expect will happen if you choose a particular option. Ask your doctor if what you expect is reasonable. Ask again about the side effects, pain, recovery time, cost, or long-term outcomes of that option. Then see if you still feel it's the best choice for you.
  5. Make an action plan. After you and your doctor have made a decision, find out what you can do to make sure that you will have the best possible outcome. Write down the steps that you need to take next. Think positively about your decision, and do your part to ensure success by following your doctor's advice. Remember, when you share in making a decision, you share the responsibility for the outcome.

For more information, see the topic Smart Decisions: Know Your Options.

Other Places To Get Help

Organizations

Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC)
780 Echo Drive
Ottawa, ON  K1S 5R7
Phone: 1-800-561-2416
(613) 730-4192
Fax: (613) 730-4314
Email: helpdesk@sogc.com
Web Address: www.sogc.org
 

The mission of SOGC is to promote optimal women's health through leadership, collaboration, education, research, and advocacy in the practice of obstetrics and gynaecology.


Canadian Medical Association
1867 Alta Vista Drive
Ottawa, ON  K1G 5W8
Phone: 1-888-855-2555
Fax: (613) 236-8864
Email: cmamsc@cma.ca
Web Address: www.cma.ca
 

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA), a leadership organization for physicians, works to promote high health care standards for Canadians. The CMA provides information for patients, health professionals, and medical students on a wide range of health topics.


College of Family Physicians Canada
2630 Skymark Avenue
Mississauga, ON  L4W 5A4
Phone: 1-800-387-6197 (toll-free)
Phone: (905) 629-0900
Fax: (905) 629-0893
Web Address: www.cfpc.ca
 

The College of Family Physicians Canada works to improve the health of Canadians. The college promotes high standards of medical education and care in family practice and helps the public better understand how to live healthfully.


National Patient Safety Foundation
268 Summer Street, 6th Floor
Boston, MA  02210
Phone: (617) 391-9900
Fax: (617) 391-9999
Email: info@npsf.org
Web Address: www.npsf.org
 

The National Patient Safety Foundation (U.S.) is an organization dedicated to improving the safety of patients. The foundation works to raise public awareness about patient safety and is a resource for people and organizations who are concerned about the safety of patients.


Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Last Revised June 13, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.