Consumer health

April 30, 2011 - 0:0

Basics: Can you remember how you got consumer health information before the Internet? Your doctor was probably your only credible source, and that meant going in for an appointment.

Today the Internet is a rich and easily accessible source of information about consumer health — making it possible to be more informed about your health care options.
Even so, navigating the complex health care system is no easy task. To be a savvy health care consumer, you have to know how to work with doctors, nurses, pharmacists, insurance companies, hospitals and others.
Fortunately, more and more consumer health tools are available to help you make smart choices. Take advantage of these consumer health resources and take charge of your health care.
- Alternative medicine
Alternative medicine means practices not typical in conventional medicine and includes things such as herbs and dietary supplements, meditation, massage, and acupuncture.
When an alternative practice is used in addition to conventional therapy, it's called complementary. Evidence-based complementary therapies are being combined more often with conventional care, giving rise to a new term ""integrative medicine.""
You're using integrative medicine when you add a complementary treatment to an existing conventional treatment.
Although alternative and complementary practices are becoming more common, many have not been rigorously tested for safety and effectiveness.
So before you try something considered to be alternative medicine, take time to investigate the risks and benefits. Your doctor can be a good resource — and needs to know about any alternative medicine you're considering.
- Medications
Medications can be lifesavers, but they need to be used properly. All medications carry some risk, especially if they're used incorrectly.
To get the most out of your medications and to keep yourself safe, you need to know why a medication is being prescribed for you, how you're supposed to take it and what the side effects might be.
You also need to be smart when using over-the-counter medications, such as pain relievers and cough and cold medicines. Read the label and follow directions with over-the-counter medications just as you would with prescription ones.
Finally make sure your doctor knows about all of the medications you take, including over-the-counter medications and any herbs or supplements. That way your doctor can check for possible interactions among your medications.