Chapter 13. Taking Charge of Your Health Care


Taking Charge of Your Health Care

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People have different preferences for the type of health service they want. Some want to know every detail of their condition and treatment, while others prefer to know little or nothing. Some want to be actively involved in choosing specific treatment regimens and caring for themselves, while others want professionals to be totally responsible for their care. The following questionnaire based on the Krantz Health Opinion Survey asks about your desire for involvement in your health care.

Check Your Health

Preferred type of health care

For each of the following statements, decide whether you agree or disagree with the statement and select the item that best fits your opinion. Because each person is different, there are no right or wrong answers.

Question 13.1

1. I usually ask the doctor or nurse many questions about what he or she is doing during a medical exam.


2. Except for serious illness, it’s usually better to take care of your own health than to seek professional help.


3. I’d rather have doctors and nurses make the decisions about what’s best for me than for them to give me a whole lot of choices.


4. Instead of waiting for him or her to tell me, I usually ask the doctor or nurse immediately after an exam about my health.


5. It is better to rely on the judgments of doctors (who are experts) than to rely on “common sense” in taking care of your own body.


6. Clinics and hospitals are good places to go for help since it’s best for medical experts to take responsibility for health care.


7. Learning how to cure some aspects of your illness without contacting a physician is a good idea.


8. It’s almost always better to seek professional help than to try to treat yourself.


9. It is better to trust the doctor or nurse in charge of a medical procedure than to question what he or she is doing.


10. Learning how to cure some aspects of your illness without contacting a physician may create more harm than good.


11. Recovery is usually quicker under the care of a doctor or nurse than when patients take care of themselves.


12. If it costs the same, I’d rather have a doctor or nurse give me treatments than do the same treatments myself.


13. It is better to rely less on physicians and more on your own common sense when it comes to caring for your body.


14. I’d rather be given many choices about what’s best for my health than to have the doctor make decisions for me.


15. I usually wait for the doctor or the nurse to tell me the results of a medical examination rather than asking them immediately.


16. I’d rather be given many choices about what’s best for my health than to have the doctor make the decisions for me.

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Your Score

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Information Score:





Behavioral Involvement Score:





The Information subscale measures a preference to ask questions and to be informed about medical decisions. The more you agree with these statements the more you prefer to ask questions of your medical provider and seek out information about medical decisions and conditions.

The Behavioral Involvement subscale measures preferences to be involved in and take self-initiated action in health-care situations. The more you agree with these statements, the more you prefer to be involved and to take control in health-care situations.


When patients are informed about their health and feel a sense of control over their health care decisions they generally experience a better outcome (Clayman, Bylund, Chewning, and Makoul, 2015). Health psychologists and health researchers have developed a number of communication-enhancing programs to increase patients’ level of participation in health care decisions. These programs focus on assisting patients in understanding their and their health care providers’ role and responsibilities, working with their health care providers as partners, using communication skills that promote shared decision-making, and empowering patient to take responsibility in health care decisions. One of the key goals of these programs is to ensure that patients concerns will be heard clearly and that they leave the doctor’s office with a clear understanding of the information that has been provided.

Some suggestions from this work include:

  • When speaking with your doctor describe your symptoms, complaints, and concerns as fully and clearly as possible. Your health is at stake here, so don’t hold back or cover up because of embarrassment or anxiety. By the same token, don’t exaggerate your symptoms.
  • Before a doctor’s appointment think about which questions you would like answers to and your goals for the visit. Be assertive in getting answers to those questions and reaching your goals.
  • If you feel that your provider is not giving you his or her full attention, or is cutting you off too quickly, say something like, “Doctor, if I may just finish. I want to make sure you have the full picture.” Always remember to state your opinion and to ask questions.

Reviewing the Patient-Provider Relationship section of your Health Psychology textbook will also be helpful in understanding how to work with your doctor.


Altshuler, L., Plaksin, J., Zabar, S., Wallach, A., Sawicki, C., Kundrod, S., & Kalet, A. (2016). Transforming the patient role to achieve better outcomes through a patient empowerment program: A randomized wait-list control trial protocol. JMIR Research Protocols, 5(2), e68.

Bennett, H. L., & Diusbrow, E. A. (1996). Preparing for surgery and medical procedures. In D. Goleman & J. Gurin (Eds.), Mind-body medicine: How to use your mind for better health (pp. 401–427). Yonkers, NY: Consumer Reports Books.

Clayman, M. L., Bylund, C. L., Chewning, B., & Makoul, G. (2016). The impact of patient participation in health decisions within medical encounters: A systematic review. Medical Decision Making, 36(4), 427–452.

Ferguson, T. (1996). Working with your doctor. In D. Goleman & J. Gurin (Eds.), Mind-body medicine: How to use your mind for better health (pp. 429–450). New York, NY: Consumer Reports Books.

Krantz, D. S., Baum, A., & Wideman, M. V. (1980). Assessment of preferences for self-treatment and information in health care. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39(5), 977–990.