Guest Column: As a patient, own your path to health |

Guest Column: As a patient, own your path to health

Jen Fanning
Grand County Rural Health Network

Did you know that you have the most important role in managing your and your family’s health?

After all, you know yours and your family’s health the best.

You have the right to accessible and quality health care. You have the right to choose your primary care provider, or medical home. You should choose a medical home whose philosophies fit closely to your own.

You also have responsibility to yourself and your medical home.

Your responsibility is to provide accurate and complete information about past illnesses, hospitalizations, medications, and anything else related to your health. You have the responsibility to answer any questions truthfully and honestly. Don’t be afraid to talk openly with your provider. You may be afraid of shocking him. Trust me, you won’t. I promise. Your provider has seen and heard some unbelievable things during his training and years of practice.

Your primary care provider makes the best decisions she can at the time with the information she has. You owe it to yourself to share the most accurate information possible. If you have concerns about anything — such as a recommended care plan, understanding a diagnosis, treatment, or medication — ask! And if you still don’t understand, ask again until you do.

Your provider might refer you to community resources, such as the patient navigator program, whose goal is to make sure you understand everything about your own health. They also help remove barriers to care, such as transportation, financial issues, etc. Your provider might also refer you somewhere else, like a specialist. If your provider refers you somewhere, you owe it to yourself to make that phone call or go to that appointment. She would not refer you if she thought it was unnecessary.

If you need help getting there, or feel uncomfortable making the appointment, tell your provider. There are resources to help.

You also have the responsibility to work with your provider to create a care plan that works for you — both medically and socially. For example, your provider might tell you to lower your blood pressure and one way is to exercise for 30 minutes a day, three times a week. But, you don’t exercise at all because your knees really hurt just throughout your normal daily routine. Tell your doctor. He can help you come up with ways to overcome the knee pain, such as swimming. If you have other barriers, like entrance fees for a pool, he can refer you to resources that can help. He will probably also want to examine your knees to discover the cause of your pain.

Finally, the most important responsibility you have is going to your medical home for annual well exams. You have the responsibility to choose one medical home. You do yourself a disservice if you go to one provider for well exams and one provider for sick exams. Your provider needs to know how you are physically when you are well to help him make the best diagnosis when you are sick.

For more information, contact the Grand County Rural Health Network at 970-725-3477 or

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