In Depth: Smarter, Safer Patients

Get Safe, Effective Care for a Fair Price

You may not realize it, but you play a role in getting care that is effective, safe and fairly priced. Here is our advice for being a smart consumer when dealing with doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and insurers.

Contents of This Section

Talking With Doctors About What You Need
Surviving Your Hospital Stay
Finding a Fair Price for Your Medical Care
Navigating Your Healthcare and Insurance Choices


Talking With Doctors About What You Need

The best way to get the right care is to maintain open, productive discussions with your healthcare providers.



When to Say 'Whoa' to Doctors A guide to common tests and treatments you probably don’t need: EKGs and exercise stress tests, imaging tests for headaches, antibiotics for sinusitis, imaging tests for lower-back pain, bone-density tests, Pap tests and PPI drugs for heartburn and GERD.

What Doctors Wish Their Patients Knew We surveyed hundreds of doctors, and thousands of Consumer Reports subscribers, to discover what both can do to strengthen the doctor-patient relationship. The survey results help create a road map toward a more productive relationship with someone who, after all, should be your most important healthcare professional.

Communicating With Your Doctor Face to face with your doctor? Here are some pointers for holding up your end of the conversation, encouraging collaboration, and getting the most from your appointment.

Take Control of Your Health Use this guide to talk with your doctor about how to keep your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol in a healthy range; get the screenings, vaccines, and medicines you need; and choose a healthy lifestyle.

Five Questions to Ask Your Doctor Here are five questions that patients should ask their doctor before agreeing to any medical test or procedure. It promotes conversations about what care is needed -- and what care may not be needed.

Adult Vaccines: Protect Yourself and Your Family Ask your doctor which vaccines are right for you. Get the vaccines you need. Make sure you stay up to date. Keep track of the vaccines you get.

Dr. Who? The next healthcare provider you see might be a nurse practitioner. Here's a guide to who you can expect to see in a white coat, and how they can help you.

Surviving Your Hospital Stay

Planning for a hospital stay can lead to better care and a faster recovery. In fact, your involvement is critical. 



Hospital Survival Guide: Before Admission Planning ahead can lead to better care and faster care. So use that time to take these 10 important steps.

Hospital Survival Guide: Check-in Besides taking care of financial and insurance questions, make sure you take these five steps at your hospital check-in.

Hospital Survival Guide: During Your Stay Mistakes do happen, especially when things are busy or chaotic. So be polite but alert. These eight steps to carry out during your stay can help improve hospital-patient safety.

Hospital Survival Guide: Check-out More than a third of hospital patients fail to get needed follow-up care once they get home. And many people have to be readmitted within 30 days of their discharge. To prevent that from happening to you, take these six steps.

Check-out Checklist It's especially important to understand your medication instructions when you leave the hospital. Reduce your chance of a drug error and the possibility of being re-admitted to the hospital by following these steps when you check out.


Finding a Fair Price for Your Medical Care

You can pay a lot less for drugs, tests and elective procedures without sacrificing quality. Here's how.


Best Drugs for Less The truth is that many newer drugs are often no safer or more effective than older medications that cost a fraction of the price. Use this in-depth guide, from Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs, to get the best medication for what ails you.

Generic Drugs By law, all generics must have the same active ingredients as the brands they copy. They must be the same strength and work the same way as the brand-name drug.

Drug Formularies If your health plan covers prescription drugs, it will have a formulary, the list of the drugs it covers.  Using your plan’s formulary will help you save money on your drugs.


Need care now? Or shopping for health coverage?  These handouts and worksheets explain where to get care, key health insurance terms, and clarify how those terms apply to you.



Where to Go for Healthcare When You Need It  It’s the weekend. Your child gets a fever. Or you twist your ankle while jogging. You think you need care. But where should you go?

Marketplace Insurance Here's how you are connected to your health plan, the marketplace, and your doctor.

Benefits of Health Insurance Health insurance protects you from the high costs of healthcare, and provides many free preventive-care services.

Employer Coverage and Tax Credits Explains when workers with employer coverage might still be eligible for health premium tax credits.

Health Plan Networks What happens if I go out of my medical provider's group?

Drug Formularies Drug coverage and costs.

Summary of Benefits and Coverage A standard form that can help you compare plans.