Be involved in your care

Your health and safety always come first. You can help put safety first by being actively involved in your care and learning what to expect.

Everyone has a role in making health care safe: doctors, nurses, technicians, and administrators. You can expect the highest quality of care whether you're at your doctor's office or you get care at your local medical center, the hospital, or a long-term care facility.

It's also important for you to do your part. Here are some ways you can help make sure you get the best and safest care possible.

Share information with your care team

  • Make sure your care provider has your complete medical history, and tell them about any symptoms or health concerns.
  • Bring a list of your questions.

Understand your ongoing treatment

  • Ask your doctor to describe each step of the process and to make sure you agree with your treatment.
  • Ask your doctor how long the treatments will take, what symptoms you might expect, and who else will be involved in your treatment.

Bring an advocate when you feel uncertain or nervous

  • A family member or friend can come with you to be your advocate at meetings with your care team.
  • Your advocate can take notes and help you remember what to ask, or even ask questions you might not think of.
  • Tell your advocate key facts about your condition and care so they can help you make decisions.

Ask questions

  • Speak up if something doesn't seem right.
  • If you think you are getting the wrong treatment or medication, ask your provider to check it.
  • Ask about follow-up care and make sure you understand what you need to do. Your advocate can help you understand and remember.

Know your medications

  • Keep a list of your medications and when you need to take them.
  • Before you start a new prescription, tell your care team about any allergies you have or any bad reactions you have had to medications.
  • If your doctor or nurse gives you a medication or prescription you do not recognize, make sure it is correct.
  • Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist to describe the purpose and possible side effects of the medications you get.
  • Ask for written information about the medication you get, including both its brand name and its generic name.
  • If you take several medications, ask your care team if it is safe to take them together. Don't forget to include the vitamins, herbal supplements, and over-the-counter drugs you take.

Expect your care team to protect your safety

  • Health care staff should introduce themselves. If a staff member is not wearing a badge, ask to see it.
  • Before a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or technician gives you a medication or treatment, they should check your medical record and confirm your name.
  • All health care staff must wash their hands between patients to avoid spreading germs. If you do not see staff doing this before they give you care, remind them.