A Nurse's Perspective: 3 Smart Ways to Take Charge of Your Health Care

Improve your well-being and help drive innovation by leaning into technology.

a young Latina nurse smiles and consults with her patient, a female who is in the foreground

Updated on April 25, 2023.

As a frontline registered nurse and an administrative supervisor for clinical care in a Level I trauma center, I understand the power of communicating effectively and empathetically with patients. Listening and speaking with empathy can calm patients’ anxiety, help them heal, and improve their outcomes.

And while I’m committed to being there for my patients inside the hospital, I’m equally devoted to helping people be well so they can stay out of the hospital. 

Here are three of my top tips for taking charge of your preventive health. Note: These aren’t the typical how-to items you may have seen before. Rather, they’re intended to empower you by getting you more fully engaged in today’s tech-forward healthcare space.

Get involved

You are the biggest stakeholder in your health and therefore the most important member of your healthcare team. When you recognize that fact, you can feel empowered to take steps to live your healthiest life.

Start by becoming a more proactive healthcare consumer. Partner with your healthcare providers (HCPs) and be an active participant in the decision-making process. Remember to speak up and ask questions. When consulting with your doctor, nurse practitioner (NP), advance practice nurse (APN), or other HCPs, always ask the question: “What are all the treatment options available to me?”

Get tech-savvy

Technology can help you progress along your wellness journey. Brilliant health apps continue to proliferate, and mobile technology is transforming health care. Imagine having a conversation with your doctor or other HCP that goes beyond simply what medications to take.

Don’t get me wrong: Medications are very important for some patients. But once you understand all your treatment options, be sure to ask your HCP about technology. What are your treatment options that include technology?

Think about apps that can help you live healthier from a mind-body perspective. One great example is Unwinding by Sharecare. Designed by Jud Brewer, MD, PhD—an addiction psychiatrist, mindfulness expert, and chief medical officer at Sharecare—the app helps you change behaviors that may be getting in the way of your leading your best life. (Download the app for iOS or Android.)

Sharecare also has its own health app that can help people reach their health goals. Whether your focus is losing weight, managing stress, or sleeping better, Sharecare’s health app (available for free for iOS or Android) helps set you on a personalized path to total wellness.

If getting to the doctor’s office is a challenge for you, telemedicine allows you to have appointments with your HCPs from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Not everything can be done via telemedicine, but for those issues that can be addressed, it can make seeking and receiving care especially efficient. Talk to your HCPs about establishing virtual communication.

Many HCP offices will send texts and/or emails for appointment reminders. Electronic Health Records (EHRs)—which enable you to view your health history, immunization records, and more, online—are also becoming more widespread. (We still have a ways to go to get all hospital computer systems interfaced and interconnected. If you’re a patient in, say, Connecticut and you’re traveling to another state and you happen to end up in the emergency department, your health records may not show up in their system.)

You may also find yourself using virtual reality (VR) as part of your care, too. In certain settings, VR can be used to help minimize stress and anxiety in children and adults. For children, VR can be used to distract from uncomfortable procedures or treatments, and even to help minimize pain. For adults, it can be used for pain management, physical therapy, and rehabilitation.

If your HCP doesn’t bring it up at your next visit, ask them about how technology can be part of your care.

Get social

As the size and reach of social networks have expanded, so, too, has their potential to improve connectivity in the world of health care. If there are health experts who inspire you and offer trustworthy health information, connect with them online.

Important to remember: As you become an informed and connected healthcare consumer, it’s vital that you question what you read and that you do your own research. Misinformation spreads like wildfire. Be cautious and make sure to speak with your HCP before making any changes to your health routine or your ongoing care.

There are many health experts engaging in social media networking to provide patients with valuable information. I’ve been involved in a few of Sharecare’s Twitter chats—powerful real-time question-and-answer sessions—and I’ve found that two hours sharing, engaging, and interacting with the Twitter audience on topics like sleep and heart health is time well spent.

Platforms like Twitter offer nurses, doctors, and other HCPs the opportunity to help educate consumers. They also provide us with the ability to listen to the community, engage with consumers, collaborate, and hopefully inspire people to live a healthier life.

Are there ways you can lean in to be an even more engaged and empowered patient—and even help drive innovation in health care?

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