The Basics: Overview
When you play an active role in your health care, you can improve the quality of the care that you and your family get. Start by speaking up and asking questions at the doctor's office.
Health care is a team effort, and you're the most important member of the team! Your team also includes doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and insurance providers.
To take charge of your health care:
- Keep track of important health information
- Know your family's health history
- See a doctor regularly for checkups
- Be prepared for medical appointments
- Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist questions
- Follow up after your appointment
Take Action: Keep a Record
Follow these steps to play an active role in your health care.
Keep track of important health information.
Keeping all your health information in one place will make it easier to manage your health care. Take this information with you to every medical appointment.
To start your own personal health record, write down:
- The name and phone number of a friend or relative to call if there’s an emergency
- Phone numbers and addresses of all the places where you get medical care, including your pharmacy
- Your blood type
- Dates and results of checkups and screening tests
- All the vaccines (shots) you’ve had — and the dates that you got them
- Medicines you take, how much you take, and why you take them
- Any health conditions you have, including allergies
- Any health conditions that run in your family
If you're not sure about some of this information, check with your doctor’s office.
Know your family health history.
Your family's health history is an important part of your personal health record. Use this family health history tool to keep track of health conditions that run in your family.
Take Action: Get Checkups
See a doctor regularly for checkups.
Getting regular checkups with your doctor or nurse can help you stay healthy. If you don’t have a doctor or nurse, check out these tips for choosing a doctor you can trust.
Regular checkups can help find problems early, when they may be easier to treat. Use these resources to:
Take Action: Cost and Insurance
What about cost?
Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans must cover many preventive services, like screenings and vaccines. Plans must also cover well-child visits through age 21 and well-woman visits.
Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get preventive services at no cost to you. Check with your insurance company for more information.
Medicare also covers certain health services at no cost. Use this tool to see what Medicare covers.
If you don’t have insurance, you may still be able to get free or low-cost health services. To learn more, find a health center near you.
You can also check out these resources:
Take Action: Be Prepared
Write down any questions you have about your health. 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.
Take your list of questions and personal health record with you to the appointment. You may also want to ask a family member or friend to go with you to help take notes.
Be sure to talk about any changes since your last visit, like:
- New medicines you're taking, including over-the-counter medicines
- Herbs, home remedies, and vitamins you're taking
- Recent illnesses or surgeries
- Important changes in your life, like losing your job or a death in the family
- Health concerns or issues
You can also ask your doctor questions about health information you’ve found online or heard from others.
Follow up after your appointment.
It can take time and hard work to make the healthy changes you talked about with your doctor or nurse. Remember to:
- Call if you have any questions — or if you experience side effects from a medicine
- Schedule follow-up appointments for tests or lab work if you need to
- Contact the doctor to get test results if you need to
Content last updated November 4, 2021
This information on managing your health care was adapted from materials from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Amanda Borsky, DrPH, MPP
Center for Evidence and Practice Improvement
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality