So how can you, as a consumer, help yourself to make decisions about what treatment or service may be the best for you? These days, most mainstream healthcare providers try to use what’s known as ‘evidence-based healthcare’ to make decisions about the treatment options they give to you. Put simply, evidence-based healthcare is about using research and scientific evidence to guide decisions about the care of patients and delivery of healthcare services, in consultation with the patient.
Sometimes, in cases where, for example, a particular health condition is very rare, or when a treatment is very new, there may not be a lot of good-quality information around. In these situations, it’s common for healthcare providers to use their knowledge of anatomy, physiology and pathology to work out whether this is likely to be helpful, or rely on the wisdom of the collective experience of their profession.
Regardless of the situation, any provider of healthcare services should be able to answer some pretty simple questions for you about the service or treatment they are offering, to help you with making these choices. These are:
• what are my options for treatment or further tests?
• what the benefits and possible harms or side-effects of these options?
• is there any evidence about the effectiveness of this treatment?Once you have the answers to these questions, you can then decide if you have enough information to be able to make an informed choice about the treatment. If you think you do, great, put the best option into action. If not, go back and ask more questions until you get the information you need. As a person in New Zealand accessing healthcare services, you have the complete right to do this, under the Health & Disabilities Commissions code of rights.
So next time you have a healthcare problem that you want to get some help with, think about taking some time to ask those questions. Making an informed choice helps ensure you are getting the treatment that is the best option for you.