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October - The Patient as an Untapped Resource

Image of Margo Kerrigan Margo Kerrigan, M.P.H, Area Director

Indian Health Service California Area Office


There is a growing recognition of the patient as the greatest untapped resource in healthcare.  As a result, there is a national effort to tap into this resource by engaging patients in their care.  Many feel that this is required for the transformation of healthcare in our country.  There is general agreement that better healthcare results when patients have more information and are actively involved in their healthcare. 

Patient engagement is a foundational element of the patient-centered medical home (PCMH).  The majority of California tribal and urban Indian healthcare programs are pursuing accreditation as a PCMH.  Characteristics of the PCMH include:

  •   The care team coordinates patient care between all healthcare providers 
  •   The patient is helped to understand treatment options and encouraged to participate in care decisions
  •   Access to care and communication is improved by expansion of clinic hours and use of technology
  •   Better quality healthcare results in fewer trips to emergency rooms and hospitals 

One native elder responded to the patient-centered care she received by saying, “I really like it and wish all the doctors knew how to work like that”.

“Ask me 3” is a national program that is working to improve communication between patients and healthcare providers by encouraging patients to ask the following questions at every visit:

  1. What is my main problem?
  2. What do I need to do?
  3. Why is it important for me to do this?

You can also ask your provider to review your patient wellness handout with you.  This will help you prepare for your visit and to better understand what your provider tells you.  Learn more at Disclaimer – You Are Leaving

Please don’t allow yourself to be an “untapped resource”.  Be sure to engage in your care with the knowledge that you will receive better care when you have more information about your healthcare.   Understanding what your healthcare provider tells you will help you take better care of yourself and live a healthy lifestyle.  Remember to trust yourself because you know more than you think you do. 


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