DENVER, CO -- (Marketwired) -- 04/24/14 -- As many Coloradans begin using their health insurance, now is the time to become informed, engaged patients ready to make smart health care decisions, says Think About It Colorado (TAIC), a nonprofit public awareness program. In particular, thousands of Coloradans, who for the first time have medical coverage and a primary care physician, may need help creating a safe health care experience.
"Doctors' appointments can be intimidating, especially if you're not used to going to the doctor," said patient safety expert Donna Kusuda, chairperson of Think About It Colorado, which includes leaders from the patient advocacy, health care and business communities. "Education is key to building up one's comfort level in this environment. By following these simple steps, patients can make their doctor experience more positive, and can help ensure the care they receive is safe."
TAIC encourages all patients, particularly new patients, to follow these "Five Steps to Safer Health Care:"
1) Prepare: Know which questions you want to ask and bring to your appointment a list of all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medication.
2) Speak up: Don't be afraid to ask questions and express your concerns during your visit. If you don't feel comfortable speaking up, ask a friend or relative to come with you as your advocate.
3) Know your options: Make sure you understand why diagnostic tests, including lab work, have been ordered. If you have concerns about the cost or invasiveness of a procedure, ask if there are other options.
4) Understand: Know what your treatment will involve. Before surgery ask exactly what will be done, how long it will take and what your recovery will be like.
5) Follow up: Contact your doctor's office if you have questions after an appointment, or if you don't hear back on test results. Don't assume that no news is good news.
While much attention and news coverage has focused on enrollment over recent months, patient safety advocates note that that is merely the starting point for effective health care.
"Improving health care quality and safety is a team effort, and the patient is the most important member of this team. Patients need to arm themselves with knowledge in order to successfully assume this important role," said Nancy Griffith, director of quality improvement and patient safety for the Colorado Hospital Association. "Think About It Colorado is a great source of information and support so that patients and their families can play a more assertive role in their care."
TAIC notes that patients who take an active role in their health care are their own best advocates and can help ensure safer health care.
"A strong partnership between both parties -- patient and provider -- helps reduce the risk of medical error," adds Kusuda. "To make sure you are getting the best and safest care possible, you have to be an active partner in your care. These simple steps and other resources offer the framework to help you get started. Think About it Colorado is here to support this important process."
Think About It Colorado is a nonprofit public awareness program that focuses on the need and opportunities for safer health care by engaging providers and consumers in advancing a culture of patient safety. Formed in 2010, the organization is led by a board of advisors representing the support of a broad coalition of dedicated and knowledgeable leaders from the patient advocacy, health care and business communities. Think About It Colorado encourages and enables Coloradans to "Team up for safer health care," and provides education, information and resources to help consumers and providers accomplish this goal. For more information, go to www.thinkaboutitcolorado.org.