Engage In Your Health: Why You Should And How To Get Started

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By Austin Brandt

doctorThere’s a health movement here in the US that is really starting to take root. This movement doesn’t tell you what you can and cannot eat, or espouse the greatness of some new exercise. It doesn’t even cost patients, doctors, or health insurers a bunch of money. Sounds pretty desirable, right? Well it’s even been called the blockbuster drug of the 21st century by leading Health IT strategist, Leonard Kish [1]. It’s the “patient engagement” movement. The Society for Participatory Medicine defines this new approach in healthcare as:

“…a model of cooperative health care that seeks to achieve active involvement by patients, professionals, caregivers, and others across the continuum of care on all issues related to an individual’s health.”

But how exactly are we, the patients, supposed to take control of our health and work with our doctors when we don’t have any real medical training? The answer is actually simpler than you may think. The first step is accessing our medical records. By possessing our own medical records we can begin to put the pieces of our health together. Suddenly you’ll have the answers to nagging questions like:

• What medications does your doctor think you’re taking?

• Is your medical and family history correct?

• How well are you following your doctor’s instructions?

• Are there any abnormal test results you haven’t discussed with your doctor?

• Has your blood pressure been increasing over the years?

By answering these simple questions, you put yourself in a position to actively participate in your health. Here’s some of the activities you can start engaging in with your doctors and care team:

1. Start asking the right questions

Start with what you now know about your medical record. Use this information to research your treatments and explore options with great online resources provided by Mayo Clinic, WebMD, and others.

2. Stop paying for too much medicine

pillsThe New York Times has professed that overtreatment has reached epidemic levels in the US [2]. Too many lab tests, too many x-rays, and too much money being wasted. Why? Because doctors get paid for it and patients don’t know any better. Use your medical records to stop unnecessary tests.

3. Fix any errors you find with medications, treatment history, etc.

The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) gives you the right to obtain and correct your medical records. If your doctor refuses to correct your record, be sure to let them know you’ll be submitting a complaint to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. The idea of a federal investigation is usually enough to convince them to let you make the correction.
And these are just a few of the ways people have found accessing their medical records can help them be happier and healthier. Becoming engaged in your health isn’t as easy as simply being told what to do by your doctor all the time, but it’s definitely safer and more cost effective.

[1] – http://www.forbes.com/sites/davechase/2012/09/09/patient-engagement-is-the-blockbuster-drug-of-the-century/
[2] – http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/27/overtreatment-is-taking-a-harmful-toll/?_r=0

– Austin is a Health IT expert specializing in patient access. He has implemented Electronic Medical Record systems in hundreds of physician practices as well as in some of the largest hospitals in the United States. In 2013 he co-founded Chasm Health LLC which operates RecordCollect.com, a service that collects customers’ full medical history for a low-fixed price. Austin strongly believes that engaging ordinary people and helping them take control of their own health will significantly improve the US healthcare system in the 21st century.