A wise health consumer is a well-informed self-advocate.
This sentiment may especially ring true if a serious illness, such as cancer, has unexpectedly become a major focus in your life.
Communication about any new diagnosis can often be filled with normal fears and uncertainties. However, new “Health literacy” tips might help you transform challenges into meaningful experiences.
Health literacy is the ability to read, understand and effectively use basic medical instructions and information.
According to the Institute of Medicine, nearly half of all American adults experience health literacy challenges.
“Ask Me 3™” is a patient education program designed to promote communication between health care providers and patients in order to improve health outcomes.
The program recommends that we understand the answers to three questions:
1. What is my main problem?
2. What do I need to do?
3. Why is it important for me to do this?
Individuals are encouraged to ask their providers (doctors, nurses, pharmacists, therapists) these three simple but essential questions during every health care interaction.
In addition, providers should always encourage this important communication.
Studies show that people who understand health instructions make fewer mistakes when they take their medicine, care for themselves at home, or prepare for a medical procedure.
They may also get well sooner or be able to better manage a chronic health condition.
Here are a few other tips you may want to consider:
- Bring a friend or family member to your provider visit.
- Make a list of any physical, emotional, and /or spiritual health concerns you would like to discuss.
- Bring a list of all your medicines, including any that are over the counter or herbal.
- Ask your pharmacist for help when you have questions about your medicines.
- Let your provider know if you still don’t understand. Say for example, "This is new to me. Will you please explain that to me one more time?"
Keep in mind that good communication does not have to mean perfect communication. It simply means that two or more people do their best to help each other be understood clearly.