What can you do?
Try to stay active when you discuss your health issues, or your family's health issues with the health care team.
Asking questions can help you to understand what you need to do, and can help to prevent medical errors.
See some critical questions to ask to the right, or learn more about the importance of asking questions.
More things you can do:
If the doctor, nurse, or other member of the health care team says something that you do not understand – let them know! It’s their job to explain things clearly. It is important that you are clear about the plan for you or your family before you leave the office or hospital.
If you don’t understand you can say things like:
- I am sorry, but I did not catch that. Can you say it again?
- I am sorry, but I had a hard time following that. Can you explain it again?
- I am confused about what you said. Can we go over it again?
- I didn't understand some of the words you used. Can you tell me that again, in less medical terms?
If you want or need more information, ask your health team if they have any basic educational materials that you can have.
Some links that include easy-to-read materials that you might find useful include:
- Medline Plus (in particular the “EZ to Read” materials)
- NIH Senior Health
- National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE)
- American Association for Retired Persons (AARP)
- California Health Literacy Initiative
- Health Literacy Missouri
- Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
- North Carolina Program on Health Literacy
If English is not your main language, let your providers know! It’s your right as a patient to get information in your preferred language.
Things you can request include:
- An interpreter in the room (if available)
- The use of a "language line" (telephone line) to help with communication
- Educational materials in your language
It is very important to take your medicines exactly the way they were prescribed. A few helpful tips:
- Ask your doctor to give you a written list of your medicines that includes the name of the medicine, how much to take, and when to take them. Also write down what the medicine is for.
- Keep an updated list of your medicines with you in your wallet or purse.
- If you don’t understand what a medicine is for or how to take it – ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist for help!
- You can use a pill box to help remind you when to take your medicines.
- You can ask friends or family for help if you need help taking your medicines the right way.
- If you are having side effects from a medicine, let your doctor know right away.
- If you can’t afford a medicine, let your doctor or nurse know right away. There are often other options.
- Never start or stop a medicine without first talking with your doctor or other provider.
More information about taking your medicines can be found here:
- Check Your Medicines, Tips for Using Medicines Safely
- Your Medicine: Be Smart. Be Safe
- Medication Safety Program
- My Pill Box
For those that want to try to improve their own literacy skills or the literacy skills of their family, there are many local and national resources available.
For example, this website can help you find local resources in your area:
These websites contain additional information:
It’s about helping you make informed decisions and choices so you can manage your own health. It’s about asking the right questions and finding the right answers, which you can then put into action. Like recognizing the signs of stroke, caring for an aging parent, trying to cope with a serious illness or just being well prepared at your next doctor’s visit. While all of these moments can make you feel alone, you’re not. Pfizer's medical professionals are here to help provide the information and insights to help you better manage your health. One day—and one decision—at a time.
3 important questions you can ask at every visit are:
- What is my main problem?
- What do I need to do?
- Why is it important for me to do this?
- More on the AskMe3 approach
Other important questions you can ask include:
- What is the test for?
- How many times have you done this procedure?
- When will I get the results?
- Why do I need this treatment?
- Are there any alternatives?
- What are the possible complications?
- Which hospital is best for my needs?
- How do you spell the name of that drug?
- What are the main side effects?
- Will this medicine interact with medicines that I'm already taking?