Prevention and Wellness

Answers to Common Health Literacy Questions

Premier Physician Network doctors answer frequently asked questions about health literacy.

What does “health literacy” mean?

Dr. Ordway explains what “health literacy” means. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Health literacy is the ability to understand health information and be able to the information to make good decisions about your health and medical care, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

About nine out of 10 adults in the U.S. have trouble using everyday health information that is routinely available in healthcare facilities, media and their communities, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP).

Limited health literacy is associated with poor health and high healthcare costs, according to the ODPHP. A lack of health literacy negatively affects how people search for and use health information and whether they adopt healthy behavior.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), having a limited health literacy can affect your ability to:

  • Fill out complex forms
  • Locate providers and services
  • Manage a chronic disease
  • Share personal information, such as health history
  • Take care of yourself
  • Understand how to take medicines
  • To learn more about health literacy and how to improve yours, talk with your doctor.

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Why is good communication important between patients and their providers?

Medical providers and patients have to work together as a team to make the best possible choices when it comes to health care.

By having good communication between you and your physician, you keep your physician informed so he or she can make good care choices for you, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Being honest about your symptoms and having an open dialogue about your opinions or care choices is also important to be able to help your doctor find the right diagnosis, treatment, and care plan for your specific needs, according to the NIH.

Doctors and other medical providers try their best to keep you in the loop about your medical needs, but if there is something you don’t understand or want more information on, it’s important to ask questions – even if you feel shy or embarrassed, according to the NIH.

Your doctor and other members of your medical care team want you to feel confident and comfortable being an advocate for your health care.

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What does it mean for a patient to take an active role in their health care?

As a patient, it is important to take an active role in your health care because you are your own best advocate.

You should never feel bad to speak up, ask questions, and seek answers about your health or the health of a family member in your care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesOff Site Icon (HHS).

Your health care is a team effort, of which you are an important part.

The HHS suggests some ways to be active in your health care including:

  • asking questions of your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, and other members of your care team
  • being prepared for medical appointments
  • keeping track of your health information
  • knowing your family health history
  • taking notes during visits to keep records of care information you need
  • visiting your doctor for regular check ups

For more ideas about how you can be active in your health care, talk with your doctor.

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What should patients do if they have a hard time understanding medical information from their physician?

Dr. Ordway discusses how patients can make sure they understand their physicians. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

If you don’t understand or feel confused about a diagnosis, medications or your overall health and healthcare, it’s important to feel comfortable talking to your doctor, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

If you frequently have a hard time understanding your doctor’s explanations about your healthcare, be ready to ask questions while you’re at your visit, HHS.

It’s best to consider yourself in a healthcare partnership with your physician. The more comfortable you feel with sharing information about how you feel and asking questions when you have them, the better your physician can team with you to provide the best possible care, according to the HHS.

To help you understand the information your doctor shares with you about your health, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) recommends:

  • Ask questions – If there’s something you don’t understand, your doctor or nurse is there to try to answer your questions for you. Asking questions isn’t always easy for everyone, but it’s an important part of your healthcare to get the information you need to take care of yourself better.
  • Repeat the information – As your doctor goes through each step of your care – including follow up visits, medication use and purpose, or a diagnosis – repeat each piece of information back. By repeating what you understood the information to be, your doctor can either confirm that you are correct or help you better understand what he or she meant.
  • Have another adult with you – Having a second set of ears can sometimes be very helpful. Sometimes, visits with your physician can leave you with a lot of information to take in, especially if there is a new diagnosis. Take a reliable family member or friend who you trust to help you remember and understand your healthcare information.

Talk to your physician if you feel you don’t understand all the aspects of your healthcare and work on a plan for how you can be more involved and have a better understanding in the future.

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What 10 questions can help start a conversation between a patient and medical provider?

Asking your doctor or advanced practice provider questions is an important part of being an active participant in your medical care.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesOff Site Icon (HHS) recommends writing down a list of any questions you have before your visit so you don’t forget them once you arrive.

Also, sometimes asking questions is a good way to strengthen the relationship between you and your medical provider, according to the HHS.

Below are 10 examples of questions the HHS suggests patients could ask during a visit:

  • Are there any lifestyle changes you would recommend to improve my diagnosis?
  • Have you done many of that type of procedure before?
  • How do I take the medicine you are prescribing me?
  • How long will test results take?
  • How successful was has this procedure been with others of your patients on whom you have performed it?
  • What are the risks or benefits of each treatment option?
  • What are treatment options?
  • What does the medicine you are prescribing do for me?
  • What is my diagnosis?
  • Will I need a test to determine my diagnosis?

Though these questions can give you a starting point for opening up a conversation with your physician, it’s important for patients to feel open to talk to their medical providers about any questions or concerns they have.

You can also ask your providers to give you written instructions or brochures, or to suggest websites that might have more information about your care.

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How has the Internet helped healthcare?

The Internet has helped healthcare in a variety of ways. Physicians, nurses and pharmacists have an array of up-to-the-minute information at their fingertips, and so do most patients.

The Internet has become a valuable resource for health information for many patients, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). If a patient has and ache, pain or other concern, they can do a quick Internet search and choose reliable sources to learn about some possible reasons for their health concern.

Patients who do research online can get value out of the convenience, anonymity and the quantity of information, according to the NIH. Of course the internet does not take the place of a physician or hospital and should never be relied upon for emergency situations.

Having access to the massive amount of information on the Internet can help patients realize some questions they might have to ask their physician about their health concern, according to the NIH. The healthcare information patients find on the Internet can help patients and their physicians build a better partnership as a healthcare team but only if patients communicate with their physicians about information they find on the internet.

The NIH also states that patients who have a diagnosis they might find difficult to deal with – such as finding out they have cancer – can find a lot of positive stories online of other people who have had the same conditions. These stories can help give patients hope and help them stay motivated to fight for their health, too.

Another advantage of the Internet in healthcare is the electronic medical record, which is a personalized record of a patient’s healthcare history, which they can review from the privacy of their own home, according to the NIH.

MyChart is a free electronic medical record service offered to patients of Premier Health.

By getting online in the comfort of their own homes, MyChart allows patients to:

  • Access trusted health information resources
  • Communication electronically with your medical team (but not for emergency situations)
  • Renew prescriptions
  • Schedule medical appointments
  • View a health summary
  • View certain test results
  • Talk to your physician for more information about how the Internet might help benefit your personal healthcare future.

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How can the amount of healthcare information on the Internet sometimes confuse patients, making them think they don’t need to see a physician for certain problems?

Though it can be useful to have an endless supply of medical information available through the Internet, it can also be difficult to determine what information is reliable.

Reliable health information can help patients be informed partners in their healthcare. But, inaccurate information can have a negative effect on patients’ health, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).

Some sites allow anyone to post answers to health questions that can be based on nothing more than their personal opinion. If patients choose to read one of these sites, it is important to remember that the right choice for someone else – even if the person had a similar health concern – might not be the right healthcare path for you to follow, according to the NIH.

Patients should not ignore their own health concerns, regardless of what they might read on the Internet. If patients have a health concern and have done online research about it, talk with your physician about what you read. That way, your physician can speak to the accuracy of the information and how it may or may not affect your personal condition, according to the NIH.

When looking for health information online, look for reliable information, for example, government or hospital Websites, according to the NIH.

For more information about how evaluating healthcare information on the Internet, talk with your physician.

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Why is it important for a patient to know how to read a prescription label?

Dr. Ordway discusses the importance of patients knowing how to read prescription labels. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Understanding how to read a prescription label is very important to your health.

Reading the label correctly can help patients make sure they are taking the right amount of the medicine and that it won’t negatively react with other medications, foods or drinks, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The label on your prescription medication, according to the HHS, provides you information including:

  • Description of the medication – many pharmacies have started adding a description of what the pills look to the label, just as an extra safety net that you have the correct medication
  • Dosage – tells how much of the medicine to take, how many times a day to take it, and how many days to take it
  • Drug interactions – some medications have bad reactions with other medicines, some foods and drinks, including alcohol; other medications require you take them with a meal
  • Expiration date – the medication is not effective after this date
  • How often and how long to take the drugs – for example, three times daily for 10 days
  • Reactions to the drug – some medications can make you tired, dizzy, nauseous or have other side effects
  • Your name – make sure you received medication meant for you

Other information, that might be included on a prescription label includes – your physician’s name, a prescription number for the pharmacy’s use, the number of refills available and the date the prescription was filled, according to the HHS.

For more information about why reading your prescript label correctly is important, talk with your physician.   

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What errors can occur if a patient doesn’t understand a prescription label?

If patients don’t understand their prescription label, they are at risk of serious health problems that can be caused by taking too much or too little of their medication or a bad interaction with their other medications.

Some problems that can occur when medicine is not taken according to the prescription label, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) include:

  • Wrong dosage – interpreting the wrong dosage can cause patients to take too much or too little medicine, that is taken either too many or not enough times a day, for either too many or too few days
  • Drug interactions – some medications have bad reactions with other medicines, some foods and drinks, including alcohol; other medications require you take them with a meal

If you are ever confused about your prescription labels, contact your physician right away for more clear instructions.

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What are the most common side effects of taking prescription medications?

The most common side effects of taking prescription medications are gastrointestinal issues, according to Premier HealthNet (PHN) physicians.

Frequently, those issues can include constipation, diarrhea, and nausea, according to PHN physicians.

These symptoms usually go away between days and a couple weeks after you’re done taking the prescription, according to PHN physicians.

For more information about side effects of prescription medications, talk with your doctor.

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How can someone know about potential side effects from taking prescription medications?

There are a few steps you can take to learn the possible side effects a prescription medication can cause, according to the Food and Drug AdministrationOff Site Icon (FDA).

The first step would be to talk to your doctor when he or she first prescribes the medication. Ask if there are any common side effects of the drug that you should know. Also, ask if there are any possible reactions or side effects that could occur because of taking a new prescription medication along with other current medications you take.

Reading the label or insert provided with the medication is another helpful way to learn about possible side effects from prescription medications, according to the FDA. Your doctor or pharmacist should be able to answer any questions you have after reading the information.

Also, you can visit the FDA’s Index to Drug-Specific InformationOff Site Icon, which provides detailed information about side effects and more on many FDA-approved drugs.

Talk to your doctor for more resources about how to know the potential side effects prescription drugs could have.

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What should someone do when they think they are experiencing a prescription medication side effect?

If you think you are experiencing a side effect to a medication your doctor prescribed, talk with your doctor right away, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Unless you have a severe allergic reaction to the medication, continue taking it until you call your doctor’s office for advice on next steps, according to the NIH.

Some side effects are minor and go away on their own, while others can be dangerous if not take care of, according to Premier HealthNet (PHN) physicians.

Your doctor will be able to help you weigh the risks and benefits of each medication you take to decide on a case-by-case basis the best choice for your health, according to PHN physicians.

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What is medication non-adherence?

Dr. Dulan explains medication non-adherence. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Medication non-adherence is a term used to describe when people are not taking their medication the way their doctor prescribed, according to the Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

When doctors prescribe medication, they give specific instructions about how much to take, how often to take it and how long to take it. When people don’t follow those instructions they are not adhering to the medical directions given by their doctor, according to the CDC.

For more information about medical non-adherence, talk with your doctor.

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Is it a misconception that medication is no longer needed if my health has improved from taking my medication?

Whether on long-term or short-term medications, it’s a common misconception that when your symptoms go away, it’s alright to stop taking the medicine, according to the Consumer ReportsOff Site Icon.

Just because your health seems to have improved or you’re feeling better, doesn’t mean your medication isn’t still necessary. Before stopping your medication, Consumer Reports recommends following these tips:

  • Check in with your doctor – Take all your medications to your doctor at least once each year to talk about which, if any, you can stop taking
  • Follow a plan – If your doctor recommends you stop taking some medications, follow his or her instructions for stopping or easing off the drugs
  • Know the warning signs – Be aware of symptoms that can come from stopping certain medications and call your doctor if you notice any
  • Never stop medications on your own – Always talk to your doctor before stopping medications, unless you are having a risky side effect or an allergic reaction. In those cases, follow up with your doctor about a replacement medication that could work for you instead

Talk to your physician for more information about stopping medicine once your symptoms improve.

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What happens when there is a disruption in taking prescription medication for a chronic condition?

Dr. Dulan talks about interrupting medications for chronic conditions. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

When someone with a chronic condition doesn’t take their medication on schedule, they risk having other medical problems or conditions develop or worsen, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

By skipping a pill to control blood pressure, for example, your blood pressure might seem to be just a bit higher than usual, but the damage – especially if the medicine is skipped frequently – can build, according to the NIH. The more the medication plan is disrupted the more out-of-control the chronic condition can become and the higher the risk of creating new problems.

Talk to your doctor for more information about the problems that can be caused by disrupting your medication.

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Are there different types of stroke?

There are three main types of stroke – ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, and transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke, according to the Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

Each type of stroke is different, according to the CDC:

  • Ischemic stroke – About 85 percent of strokes are this kind, in which the artery that supplies oxygen-rich blood to the brain is blocked. The blockages often are caused by blood clots.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke – This happens when the artery in the brain leaks blood or breaks open. The blood puts too much pressure on brain cells, damaging them. This types of stroke can be caused by issues such as high blood pressure or aneurysms. There are two types of these hemorrhages – an intracerebral hemorrhage, in which an artery in the brain bursts, and a subarachnoid hemorrhage, in which there is bleeding between the brain and the thin tissue covering the brain.
  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA) – Also known as a mini-stroke, this is different than the other major types because blood flow to the brain is blocked for only a short time of 5 minutes or less. TIA serves as a warning sign of a future stroke and should be considered a medical emergency. About 10 percent to 15 percent of people who have a TIA will have a major stroke within three months, so it is important to be treated as soon as possible.

For more information about types of stroke, talk with your physician.

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Are stroke symptoms different for men and women?

Though some symptoms of stroke are the same for men and women, there are also some symptoms unique just to women, according to the National Stroke AssociationOff Site Icon (NSA).

The symptoms common among women and men, according to the NSA, include sudden:

  • Confusion, trouble speaking, trouble understanding
  • Difficulty walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Severe headache with no known reason
  • Trouble seeing from one or both eyes

In addition, women often experience symptoms, according to the NSA, that include sudden:

  • Chest pain
  • Face and limb pain
  • General weakness
  • Hiccups
  • Nausea
  • Palpitations
  • Shortness of breath

If you feel like you are experiencing any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately because with a stroke – even a mini stroke – every second counts, according to the NSA.

For more about symptoms of stroke that men and women experience, talk with your doctor.

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What are the signs and symptoms of a stroke?

The quicker the treatment after a stroke, the better the chances of reduced brain damage, according to the Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC). Because every minute counts, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms.

According to the CDC, stroke signs and symptoms include sudden:

  • Confusion, difficulty speaking and understanding speech
  • Numbness and weakness in an arm, leg or face, especially on one side of the body
  • Severe headache with no cause that you know
  • Trouble seeing
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, balance loss and lack of coordination

For more information about stroke signs and symptoms, talk with your physician.

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What are the risk factors of a stroke?

Though anyone can have a stroke at any age, it’s important to know what risk factors could put you at a higher risk, according to the Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

Risk factors, according to the CDC, include:

Behavior

  • Lack of physical activity
  • Obesity
  • Tobacco use
  • Too much alcohol
  • Unhealthy diet

Conditions

  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Previous Stroke or “mini stroke” (transient ischemic attack)
  • Sickle cell disease

Family history and other issues

  • Age, with the risk doubling every decade after age 55
  • Family history
  • Gender, with females at higher risk
  • Sleep apnea
  • Use of birth control pills

Some of these risk factors can be improved by making changes to your lifestyle choices.

For more information about risk factors of a stroke, talk with your physician.

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After someone has a stroke, what can be done to reduce their risk of another stroke?

Once you have had a stroke, you are at a higher risk of having another stroke, according to the Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

One in four stroke survivors has another stroke within 5 years, according to the CDC. After having a “mini stroke” – a transient ischemic attack (TIA) – your risk of having a stroke can be as high as 17 percent, with the greatest risk during the first week.

The best way to try to help prevent having another stroke is to focus on the issue that caused the first stroke, according to the CDC. Underlying issues could include heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation.

You doctor can recommend the best path for you to improve your health to avoid another stroke, which could include, lifestyle changes, medication and/or surgery, according to the CDC.

Talk to your doctor for more information about how to help prevent another stroke.

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What are the different parts of a Nutrition Facts Label?

Dr. Allen discusses different parts of a nutrition label. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Understanding how to read a Nutrition Fact Label is an important part of making healthy choices about your diet.

The label is broken into five parts, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), from top to bottom:

  • Serving size – This section shows the number of servings in the whole package and how big each serving is. The nutritional values on the rest of the label are based one serving of the food
  • Amount of Calories – This section lists both the number of calories and the number of calories from fat in one serving
  • Percent Daily Value – This section lists the percentage of nutrients one serving of the food will add to your total daily diet. The percentages are based on a daily diet of 2,000 calories
  • Nutrients to limit – Total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium all are listed in the top half of the nutrient section. These are all thought to increase your risk of chronic diseases including heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers
  • Positive nutrients – The bottom half of the nutrient sections lists nutrients that people often need more of in their diets to feel strong and healthy, including dietary fiber,

Once you get used to reading Food Nutrition Labels, they can become a very important tool to help you maintain a healthy, balanced diet, according to the FDA.

For more information about the different parts of a food label, talk with your physician.

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Why is it important to pay attention to serving sizes?

It’s important to pay attention to serving sizes, especially those listed on packaged foods, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Some packages – including many small bags of snacks, such as chips, crackers or candy – contain more than one serving.

If the “Servings Per Container” listing near the top of the Nutrition Facts Label says more than one and you eat the entire container, you have to remember to multiply the number of calories and all the nutrients by the number of servings you ate, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

For example, if a package lists that there are two servings of potato chips inside and you eat the entire package, you would have to multiply the listed amounts of calories and nutrients by two to get the actual amount of calories and nutrients you consume, according to the FDA.

Talk to you doctor for more information about the importance to paying attention to serving sizes.

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What is a primary care provider?

A primary care provider (PCP) is someone who practices healthcare, seeing patients who have common medical problems, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

A PCP is most often a doctor but also can be a physician assistant or a nurse practitioner, according to the NIH. Types of physicians who are PCP include family practitioners, pediatricians and internists.

This healthcare provider will be your main source of non-emergency care, and according to the NIH, his or her job is to:

  • Decide how urgent your medical problems are
  • Direct you to the best place or specialist for additional care, if needed
  • Identify and treat common medical conditions
  • Provide preventive care
  • Teach healthy lifestyle choices

PCP’s usually see patients in outpatient offices, but might help with your care if you are in a nearby hospital, depending on the situation, according to the NIH.

Visit www.premierhealthnet.com/doctor to find a PCP for your area.

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What are things a person should keep in mind when looking for a primary care provider?

Dr. Joseph Leithold discuesses what a person should keep in mind when looking for a primary care provider. Watch the video or read the transcript.

 

When you are looking to choose a new primary care provider (PCP), it’s important to keep in mind both your individual needs and wants.

The National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH) suggests keeping the following things in mind when choosing a PCP:

  • Are you looking for a PCP who is more formal or warm and friendly?
  • Are you welcomed to be part of your care, with the PCP seeing your care as a partnership?
  • Do the office hours work with your schedule?
  • Do you like the office staff? Are they helpful and friendly?
  • Do you prefer a conservative or aggressive approach to treatment?
  • Do you want a PCP focused on disease treatment or wellness and prevention?
  • Does the PCP use email?
  • Does your insurance company cover this PCP?
  • How often does this PCP refer to specialists?
  • Is the office staff good about returning calls?
  • Is the PCP easy to reach?
  • What are current patients’ opinions of the PCP?
  • Will the PCP order a lot of tests?

Visit www.premierhealthnet.com/doctor to find a PCP for your area that is right for you.

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What are the roles of physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and medical assistants in a primary care office?

Dr. Block discusses the role of physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and medical assistants in a primary care office. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

A physician assistant (PA) is an expert in general medicine who undergoes rigorous medical training, according to the American Academy of Physician AssistantsOff Site Icon (AAPA). PAs are tested in general medicine before being licensed and certified.

A nurse practitioner (NP) is also considered a medical expert with an extensive evaluation and certification process, according to the American Association of Nurse PractitionersOff Site Icon (AANP). NPs focus on caring for the health and well-being of the whole person.

Both PAs and NPs can do physical exams, take a medical history, provide a diagnosis, write prescriptions. and more, according to Premier HealthNet (PHN) physicians. They both work under the license of a physician, who coaches them on patient care options.

A medical assistant (MA) works alongside physicians, PAs, and NPs to help with both administrative and clinical duties, according to the American Association of Medical AssistantsOff Site Icon (AAMA). MAs serve as a liaison between the medical care providers and patients.

Clinical duties of an MA could include taking medical histories, explaining a treatment procedure, instructing patients on medications or diet, and drawing blood, according to the AAMA.

For more information about the role of physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and medical assistants, talk with your primary care provider.

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What is the difference between a doctor and an advanced practice provider?

Dr. Block discusses the doctors and advanced practice providers. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

The main difference between a physician and an advanced practice provider (APP), a nurse practitioner and a physician assistant, is the level of education and training each receives, according to Premier HealthNet (PHN) physicians.

Those education differences mean that APPs work under the coaching of a physician.

APPs also don’t have quite as many responsibilities as a physician, but they can do medical exams, take medical history, provide a diagnosis, write prescriptions, and more.

Talk to your primary care provider for more information about the difference between a doctor and an advanced practice provider.

How do doctors and advanced practice providers work together to provide quality care?

Dr. Block discusses how doctors and advanced practice providers work together to provide quality care. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Advanced practice providers (APPs) are nurse practitioners and physician assistants who work under the license of a physician. They are in constant contact with the physician, who oversees their medical responsibilities in the office, according to Premier HealthNet (PHN) physicians.

In many situations, APPs have seen so many of certain cases, they are able to diagnose and provide treatment for some medical conditions without the physician needing to see the patient also, according to PHN physicians.

In situations where APPs need to consult a physician, the APP and physician work together to come up with the best possible diagnosis and treatment plan, according to PHN physicians.

What is a specialty physician?

While a primary care provider (PCP) is the main caregiver for a patient, a specialty physician is also an important caregiver in a patient’s care, according to Premier HealthNet (PHN) physicians.

Your PCP will be where you take your first concern of a medical problem and where you go to prevent problems and stay healthy, according to PHN physicians.

Specialty physicians have a unique set of skills that they focus on a specific health issue or a specific part of the body. Oftentimes, a PCP will make a diagnosis of a health issue, and a patient will be referred to a specialty physician who will care for their specific health issue, according to PHN physicians.

Examples of specialty physicians include:

  • Allergist & immunologist
  • Anesthesiologist
  • Cardiologist
  • Dermatologist
  • Endocrinologist
  • Gastroenterologist
  • Gynecologist
  • Neurologist
  • Obstetrician
  • Oncologist
  • Orthopedic surgeon
  • Pulmonologist
  • Urologist

For more information about what a specialty physician is, talk with your doctor.

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What determines if a patient is referred to a specialty physician?

Usually patients are referred to a specialty physician by their primary care physician (PCP) when the PCP either cannot pinpoint a specific health problem or feels the patient will get better care from someone who is trained to handle the health issue, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Any patient can request on their own to see a specialist for a health issue, according to the NIH. But, if you visit a specialist without a referral from your PCP, your insurance plan might not cover the care with the specialty physician.

For more information about why you might be referred to a specialty physician, talk with your doctor.

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What role can a patient play in what specialty physician is chosen for their referral?

Your primary care physician (PCP) might recommend a specialty physician they have had good outcome working with in the past, but in the end, every patient has a choice in deciding which specialty physician they would like to care for them, according to Premier HealthNet (PHN) physicians.

While your PCP will be happy to offer you options of specialty physicians, the patient is ultimately able to choose who provides his or her care, according to PHN physicians.

Talk to your doctor for more information about how your role in choosing specialty physicians who care for you.

How common is joint pain?

Dr. Leithold explains how common joint pain is. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Joint pain is a common problem that many people have to live with and work to manage, according to Premier HealthNet (PHN) physicians.

The most common type of joint pain is osteoarthritis, according to PHN physicians.

Osteoarthritis (OA) – also known as degenerative joint disease – affects about 27 million Americans and can affect any joint, according to the Arthritis FoundationOff Site Icon (AF). OA happens most often in the knees, hips, neck, lower back, and in the small joints of the fingers and bases of the thumb and big toe.

People over 65 years old are most commonly affected by OA, though it can happen in people of all ages, according to the AF.

For more information about joint pain, talk with your physician.

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What are joint supplements?

Dr. Leithold explains joint supplements. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Joint supplements are often considered natural medicines that are sold to be able to help ease joint pain and discomfort, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP).

The two most common joint supplements are glucosamine and chondroitin, according to the AAFP.

Though some people find supplements helpful to easing joint pain, there is conflicting research as to whether these supplements actually help patients at all, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic SurgeonsOff Site Icon (AAOS).

Because the Food and Drug AdministrationOff Site Icon (FDA) does not regulate supplements the same way it does other medications, it’s important to talk with your doctor before taking them.

Your doctor can help you decide which, if any, would be good for you to take, and can make sure the supplements won’t have a bad interaction with any other medications you take.

To learn more about joint supplements, talk with your doctor.

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Does medication lose its effectiveness after its expiration date?

Expired medication can be less effective, according to the Food and Drug AdministrationOff Site Icon (FDA).

Over time, medications can change their chemical makeup and can also decrease in strength.

Talk to your doctor for more information about whether medication loses its effectiveness after its expiration date.

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Can taking expired medication hurt me?

Taking expired medication can be a risky choice, according to the Food and Drug AdministrationOff Site Icon (FDA).

The strength of expired medication can decrease, making it less effective. The chemical composition of the medications also can change over time.

Some expired medications also have the possibility of growing bacteria. And, taking an expired medication that isn’t as strong as it should be can fail to treat your illness.

For more information about how taking expired medications can hurt you, talk to your doctor.

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What should I do with expired medication?

Once your medication is expired, it’s important to get rid of the rest of it in a responsible way. 

You can start by looking into any drug take-back programs in your area. Sometimes there are specific drop off days or locations, such as police or fire departments, according to the Food and Drug AdministrationOff Site Icon (FDA).

If that isn’t an option, it’s recommended that you toss the medication in a zip-top bag along with something people won’t want to put in their mouths, such as coffee grounds, kitty litter, or dirt.

Seal the bag and put it with the rest of the trash. 

Talk to your doctor for more ways to properly dispose of expired medications.

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Source: Joseph Allen, MD, Family Medicine of Vandalia; Christopher Aviles, MD, Beavercreek Family Physicians; Michael Dulan, MD, Dulan and Moore Dulan Family Wellness Center; Aleda Johnson, MD, Liberty Family Medicine; Josh Ordway, MD, Franklin Family Practice; Joseph Leithold, MD, Woodcroft Family Practice; Anne Nestor, MD, Trenton Family Medicine; Melinda Ruff, MD, Centerville Family Medicine; Anessa Alappatt, MD, Fairborn Medical Center; Ziad Khatib, MD, First Care Family Medical; Dale Block, MD, Premier Family Care of Mason; Jennifer Romaker, NP-C, Fairfield Road Physician Offices

Content Updated: September 18, 2018

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