Living 50 Plus

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How to make informed healthcare decisions

The typical healthcare patient has changed in recent years. No longer are individuals putting all of their healthcare decisions into the hands of nurses and doctors. Patients are more informed than ever before and are interested in taking a more active role in their own care.

Thanks to the Internet, people are able to access information that, in the past, was not easily available. A few decades ago, medical data may have been elusive and filled with confusing jargon the layperson might not have understood without a crash course in biology. However, today there are different Web sites that clearly spell out information about certain illnesses and diseases. This means that patients may no longer be walking blindly into appointments with doctors.

Facing an illness is never easy, and the decision-making abilities could be hampered by emotions and the desire to improve as quickly as possible. Patients who do not have all of the facts may have to rely solely on the expertise of caregivers and physicians when making important healthcare decisions. By knowing the avenues of information, a patient can find assistance with careful decision-making.

While learning about an ailment is important, there are some things to consider.

* The Internet isn't foolproof. Many online medical sites are very reliable and offer a wealth of pertinent information. They can be good starting points when seeking out information on a particular condition. It is in your best interest to visit sites that are well-known and monitored by respected medical affiliations. Other sites may be peppered with exaggerated claims or misinformation. Therefore, do not go by online information alone.

* Don't self-diagnose. It can be easy to use the Internet as a means to narrowing down symptoms and making assumptions about what ailments you may have. Instead of using the Internet to self-diagnose your condition, leave the diagnosis up to your doctor and rely on online information after you are diagnosed. This can improve your understanding of the condition and any potential treatment options.

* Seek other avenues of information. You should never hesitate to seek a second opinion or go to a published medical journal to find out more about a condition. You have rights as a patient to be comfortable with the advice doctors give and be as involved in your treatment as you want to be.

* Online forums could be more harm than help. Many people turn to online forums and blogs to gain more insight into particular diseases. While these forums may be good sources of support, information published on these sites could be misleading, inaccurate or unsafe. Before trying any proposed treatment, it is best to consult with your doctor.

Having a general knowledge of a medical condition can enable healthcare consumers to make more informed decisions about their situations.

Gadsden Times