Making Smart Choices

Informed patients make smarter choices. You can save money, save time and get better sooner if you know how to ask for and where to get the right medical care.

Talk to your doctor about what care you need-and what care you may be better off without.

Certain drugs, treatments and tests are offered for common health complaints even though they aren't really effective. People sometimes ask for things that won't lead to better care or better health and physicians often struggle with decisions about whether to prescribe them. Overuse of unnecessary tests and procedures not only drives up the cost of health care, but can also lead to harm because every procedure has a risk.

The Choosing Wisely® campaign brings physicians and consumer advocates together to examine the value and effectiveness of commonly prescribed tests and procedures. One outcome of the campaign is easy-to-understand guides and resources explaining how to ask for better, safer and more effective care. A few of these resources include:

  • The ABIM Foundation joined with leading medical specialty societies to develop evidence-based lists of "Things Physicians and Patients Should Question."
  • Free, two-page guides created by Consumer Reports address real-life questions about what's the most effective care for your condition so you are better equipped to ask the right questions of your doctor.

Know where to go when you are sick or injured.

Sometimes a medical event, like a heart attack, requires emergency care. But sometimes less serious health concerns can be treated by a visit to a walk-in clinic. And sometimes a little self-care can help you wait until you can be seen by your regular doctor. Understanding the difference between emergency and non-emergency medical issues means you can make smart choices about your health care.

To help you learn the difference, the Washington State Medical Association has developed a useful guide about when and how to use emergency services and who to call for help. The guide includes lists of specific conditions that are appropriate for certain care settings, as well as 24/7 nurse line phone numbers for major health plans serving Washington residents and their families.

Making Smart Choices Resources

Own Your Health is a campaign presented by the Puget Sound Health Alliance to empower consumers to become active participants in their own health and health care;  Bureau of Minoirty Health; Mid-south Foundation; Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals