Tool Helps Consumers Take Care of Health

NASW has teamed up with the National Transitions of Care Coalition (NTOCC) to produce a new tool for consumers that guides them to better control of their health care.

NASW, together with other NTOCC Advisory Task Force members such as the Case Management Society of America and Consumers Advocating for Patient Safety, developed the tool, a two-page document entitled Taking Care of MY Health Care. (PDF)

A client can take the document whenever he or she visits a hospital, nursing center, or other health care facility, or meets with a health care professional at home. "You have a right to your personal health information," the document states. "Using this guide can help you keep track of your health information, and may prevent other health problems."

The guide includes a numbered list of questions to be answered. This includes obtaining a list of all the medicines the client needs to take and the directions for taking them. The guide encourages the client to ask follow-up questions with a provider. "Which doctor or health care provider will I see next and why?" is one question, followed by "How soon?" and "How do I make an appointment?" Another important transition of care question is, "Has my doctor sent a copy of my discharge plan or other information about my health (including all my medicine and other treatments) to my next health care provider or facility? May I have a copy of that information?" The second page of the document includes a detailed list for medications and their directions.

Chris Herman, senior practice associate at NASW, said the "Taking Care of MY Health" guide helps consumers monitor, communicate about and maintain control of their health care, resulting in smoother transitions of care among health and behavioral health settings and providers. "Tracking the information noted in the document is especially critical for older adults and other people who may have multiple chronic conditions or who see multiple providers," she said.

Herman noted the tool is useful for people of all ages and health conditions as well. "A trip to the emergency room or a meeting with a social work case manager or another health or behavioral health care provider can raise many questions for even the most savvy of consumers," she said. "This document also encourages consumers to bring up any health or behavioral health concerns they may have.

"Social workers in health, behavioral health, and aging will find this tool useful in their work with clients," Herman said. "By offering the tool to clients and helping them use it, social workers facilitate greater client involvement in all phases of social work intervention - assessment, care planning, intervention, and evaluation. This is consistent with the strengths-based, client centered perspective of social work."

NTOCC was formed in 2006 to bring together thought leaders, patient advocates and health care providers from various care settings dedicated to improving the quality of care coordination and communication when patients are transferred from one level of care to another.