A female patient draws “Idea-Plan-Action” on her white board


Check back soon.

Click here for past events.


tips and checklists
A patient uses a checklist for doctors’ visits, choosing a surgeon, and staying safe in the hospital

We want to help you to become the most successful patient you can be. To that end, we have prepared some information, tips and checklists— to help get you started.

Our first tip is that you consider hiring a health care navigator. Your health care navigator can guide you effectively through the medical maze and ensure that you have all the tools and knowledge necessary to succeed as a patient in today’s health care system. As you will see from reading the information below, there is so much to think about and accomplish that it can be difficult for patients to handle matters successfully on their own. However, if you do choose to go it alone, we hope that you will take advantage of the information, tips and checklists below.

Please CONTACT US if you have questions or need additional information based on your unique circumstances.


1.    Speak up if you have questions or concerns. You have a right to question anyone who is involved with your care.

2.    Make a list of your questions and concerns before your doctor’s visit. Go to all doctors’ visits prepared with a written list of health problems and questions/concerns. Do not assume that you can remember everything that you need or want to say to the doctor—write it all down.

Please click here to download and print our Doctor Visit Checklist to use for your next appointment.

3.    Make sure that someone, such as your primary care doctor, coordinates your care. This is especially important if you have many health problems/are in the hospital and do not have a health care navigator by your side.

4.    Make sure that all your doctors have your important health information. Do not assume that everyone has all necessary information.

5.    Know that "more" is not always better. It is a good idea to find out why a test or treatment is needed and how it can help you. You could be better off without it.

6.    If you have a test, do not assume that no news is good news. Ask how and when you will get the results.

7.    Learn about your condition and treatments by asking your doctor and nurse and by using other reliable sources. Ask your doctor if your treatment is based on the latest scientific evidence, and do some research of your own to confirm that this is the case.


General Information

Many consumers have healthcare coverage from their employer. Others have medical care paid through a government program such as Medicare, Medicaid, or the Veterans Administration.
If you have lost your group coverage from an employer as the result of unemployment, death, divorce, or loss of "dependent child" status, you may be able to continue your coverage temporarily under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). You, not the employer, pay for this coverage. When one of these events occurs, you must be given at least 60 days to decide whether you wish to purchase the coverage.

Some states offer an insurance pool to residents who are unable to obtain coverage because of a health condition. To find out if a pool is available in your state, check with your state department of insurance. Most states also offer free or low-cost coverage for children who do not have health insurance. Visit insurekidsnow.gov or call 1-877-KIDS-NOW (543-7669) for more information.

When purchasing health insurance, your choices will typically fall into one of three categories:

   •  Traditional fee-for-service health insurance plans are usually the most expensive choice. But they offer you the most flexibility when choosing healthcare providers.

   •   Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) offer low co-payments and cover the costs of most preventative care, but your choice of healthcare providers is limited.

   •  Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) offer low co-payments like HMOs but give you more flexibility when selecting a provider. A PPO gives you a list of providers you can choose from.

WARNING: If you go outside the HMO or PPO network of providers, you may have to pay a portion or all of the costs.

If you are currently shopping for an individual or family health insurance plan, here are some tips:

1.   Make a list of the coverage you absolutely need. If you take a lot of prescription medications, make sure your drug co-pay is going to be affordable. If you’re a woman who may consider getting pregnant, be sure to have maternity coverage. Full maternity coverage is not automatically built into plans, even if you are a female. Also, be clear as to whether or not your plan will cover dental and vision, if these are “must haves” for you at this time.

2.    Make sure you can afford your deductible in case of an emergency. Going with the cheapest monthly premium you can find may be a short-sighted decision if the deductible is so high that you couldn’t possibly pay it in the event of an emergency.

3.    Read the fine print.

4.    Ask a lot of questions. Health insurance is one of the most important purchases Americans make and it should involve a high level of involvement on the part of the consumer, much like buying a car or a home. Questions to ask include:

•  Do I have the right to go to any doctor, hospital, clinic or pharmacy I choose?

•  Are specialists such as eye doctors and dentists covered?

•  Does the plan cover special conditions or treatments such as pregnancy, psychiatric care or physical therapy?

•  Does the plan cover home care or nursing home care?

•  Will the plan cover all medications my physician might prescribe?

•  What are the deductibles? Are there any co-payments?

•  What is the most I will have to pay out of my own pocket to cover expenses?

•  If there is a dispute about a bill or service, how would it be handled?

Please click here to download and print our Health Insurance Checklist — to use when comparing several difference policies.


1.    Make sure that all of your doctors know about every medicine you are taking. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines and dietary supplements, such as vitamins and herbs.

2.   Bring all of your medicines and supplements to your doctor visits. "Brown bagging" your medicines can help you and your doctor talk about them and find out if there are any problems. It can also help your doctor keep your records up to date and help you get better quality care.

3.   Make sure your doctor knows about any allergies and/or adverse reactions you have had to medicines. This can help you to avoid getting a medicine that could harm you.

4.   When your doctor writes a prescription for you, make sure you can read it. If you cannot read your doctor's handwriting, your pharmacist might not be able to either.

5.   Ask for information about your medicines in terms you can understand—both when your medicines are prescribed and when you get them. Questions may include: What is the medicine for? How am I supposed to take it and for how long? What side effects are likely? What do I do if they occur? Is this medicine safe to take with other medicines or dietary supplements I am taking? What food, drink, or activities should I avoid while taking this medicine?

6.   Check your medication. When you pick up your medicine from the pharmacy, ask: Is this the medicine that my doctor prescribed?

7.   If you have any questions about the directions on your medicine labels, ask. Medicine labels can be difficult to understand. For example, ask if "four times daily" means taking a dose every 6 hours around the clock or just during regular waking hours.

8.   Ask your pharmacist for the best device to measure your liquid medicine. For example, many people use household teaspoons, which often do not hold a true teaspoon of liquid. Special devices, like marked syringes, help people measure the right dose.

9.   Ask for written information about the side effects your medicine could cause. If you know what might happen, you will be better prepared if it does happen or if something unexpected happens.


1.   Use names in ALL interactions. Names are a reminder to everyone that you are a person first and a patient second. Using names encourages the emergence of the essential human connection, which is the key to collaborating with your health care team. Get to know and use your doctors’ names—don’t let them remain strangers to you at this crucial time.

2.   Consider your hospital room your home-away-from-home. The more comfortable you make yourself, the better your mental state will be. Make sure that your television works, that you have enough blankets, and that the climate in your room is comfortable. Bring your iPod or some good books from home. Put pens and a notebook in an easily accessible place so that you can make notes and write down observations. Always keep a bottle of hand sanitizer on your bedside table within easy reach for your own use, especially if you will be bed-bound for a while.

Please click here to download and print our Hospital Packing Checklist—to remind you what to take with you for your next hospital stay.

3.   Make cleanliness in your room a top priority. Hospital rooms are dirty, period. Three-quarters of patients’ rooms are contaminated with bacteria that can cause serious infections. Use disinfectant wipes on surfaces that you know you will touch frequently, especially the phone, the call button, the rolling table, and the TV remote (items that are often overlooked by the janitorial staff). If your room is really dirty, tell your nurse that you want someone to come and clean it.

4.   Create a master medication list. Keep a numbered list that includes drug name, prescribing physician, schedule with dosages, what day you started and stopped and why you are taking every drug. This list will serve as a record of ALL medications you are prescribed during your hospital stay and can be used later to check against hospital and insurance bills.

5.   Know your daily medication schedule: medication mistakes can be deadly. In the United States, 1.5 million people are harmed annually by medication errors in the hospital (an average of one mistake per patient per day). Learn the “5 Rights” checklist by reviewing these “5 Rights”: the right time/schedule, the right drug, the right dosage, the right route (injection, oral, topical), and the right patient—you! Do not be afraid to speak up if something seems wrong to you.

6.   Be aware that hospitals have pain doctors on staff. If you feel that your pain is not being controlled to the maximum extent possible, tell your nurse that you want to see a pain doctor—a doctor who specializes in pain relief. Most hospitals have such doctors on hand, but they will not provide you with one unless you ask for one.

7.   Be aware that hospitals have IV nurses on staff. If you have difficult veins and have been stuck with needles so many times that your arms are black and blue, be aware that you can request that an IV nurse, also known as an infusion nurse, come to draw your blood or place an IV. However, hospitals usually only have two or three of these nurses on call at any given time, and so if you want an IV nurse you must remember to request one. You should not have to suffer needlessly if you have damaged or painful veins, and often an IV nurse can get the job done when no one else can.

8.   Ask all health care workers who will touch you whether they have washed their hands. Failure to follow hand washing protocols is the main cause of the spread of infection in hospitals.

9.   When you are being discharged from the hospital, ask your doctor to explain the treatment plan that you need to follow at home. This includes learning about your new medicines, making sure you know when to schedule follow-up appointments, and finding out when you can get back to your regular activities. If you need physical therapy at home, or visits from a home health care company, or medication delivery to your home, make sure your nurse knows to schedule these appointments before you leave the hospital (and make sure that you have all relevant names and phone numbers of who will be coming to your home in case you need to reach them).

Please click here to download and print our Hospital Safety Checklist to remind you how to be safe during your next hospital stay.


1.   Make sure that you, your doctor, and your surgeon all agree on exactly what will be done. Having surgery at the wrong site (for example, operating on the left knee instead of the right) is rare. But even once is too often. The good news is that wrong-site surgery is 100 percent preventable. Surgeons are expected to sign their initials directly on the site to be operated on before the surgery.

2.   If you have a choice, choose a hospital where many patients have had the procedure or surgery you need. Research shows that patients tend to have better results when they are treated in hospitals that have a great deal of experience with their condition.

3.   Research the hospital where you will be having your surgery. There are websites where patients can compare hospitals in terms of patient satisfaction, quality of care ratings, doctors, procedures, and infection rates.

Please click here to download and print our Surgery Checklist to use when you are choosing a surgeon or preparing yourself before surgery.

telephone & fax

800 518 8573

email address


mailing address

Health Care Navigators, LLC
258 Harvard Street #474
Brookline, MA 02446

let us know what your needs are

All fields are required.


Close contact form