Patients and experts explore what it takes to find good health care and make the most of it.

Anne Polta reports on health care for the West Central Tribune in Willmar, Minnesota. Her personal experiences as a patient include treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma at age 38 and an adverse medical event resulting in injury. She has covered health care – specifically patient engagement and patient safety – for more than 20 years. You can follow her on her personal blog, HealthBeat, and on Twitter via @AnnePolta.

Lying to the Doctor

Anne Polta | November 10, 2014
Why are patients sometimes less than forthcoming? The top reason, according to a new survey, is fear of being lectured or feeling embarrassed. If doctors want their patients to be honest, they need to make an effort of their own to create a trusting, non-threatening environment that encourages patients to open up...

But... What Did the Patient Want?

Anne Polta | September 29, 2014
It's truly a dilemma for the doctor. The patient's test results are back and the news isn't good. But it's Friday afternoon and there's a decision to make: Call the patient now or wait until Monday?

When Does a Patient Need to Be Seen?

Anne Polta | July 28, 2014
You need a refill for a prescription that's about to run out. You've taken the medication for years without any problems and can't think of any reason why the prescription can't just be automatically continued. But the doctor won't order a refill unless you make an appointment and come in to be seen. Is this an unfair burden on the patient or due diligence by the doctor?...

How Much Is a Patient's Peace of Mind Worth?

Anne Polta | May 12, 2014
If something is medically useless, does it still have value if it gives the patient (and perhaps the clinician as well) some peace of mind? To many patients, this is no small thing. Unfortunately, it's also often abetted by consumer marketing that plays up the peace-of-mind aspect of certain tests while remaining silent about the limited benefit, the possible risk and the clinical complexity that may be part of the larger picture...

The Language of Health Care

Anne Polta | November 18, 2013
That "s.o.b." abbreviation in your chart doesn't indicate what you think it does. Health care has a language all its own consisting of ordinary words used in ways that convey certain shades of meaning. And sometimes they reinforce the paternalism and power imbalance that have historically existed between health care professionals and their patients.

Flu Shot Options: A Test of Patient Engagement?

Anne Polta | September 26, 2013
Talking about the flu vaccine used to be straightforward. But with the proliferation of vaccine options, it has become much more complicated. More options for consumers = better for everyone, right? Well...

Every Move You Make, the Patient Is Watching You

Anne Polta | July 22, 2013
Patients have a way of hanging onto every nonverbal cue they notice, no matter how small.

My Weekend as an Emergency Patient and What I Learned

Anne Polta | May 13, 2013
If you want to see what health care is really like, there’s no better way than by becoming a patient yourself. To paraphrase the wisdom of Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the things you’ll learn!”

Guest Blog: When Families Clash During the Doctor Visit

Anne Polta | April 24, 2012
Family togetherness is usually a good thing, but sometimes it's a source of conflict, and new research suggests doctors can be slow to recognize when families disagree about the best course of care.

Defining Patient Engagement

Anne Polta | April 3, 2012
Everyone in health care is talking these days about patient engagement, but a funny thing happened on the way to the discussion: There doesn't seem to be a widely agreed-on definition of what this actually means.

Guest Blog: Giving the Patient Bad News

Anne Polta | March 13, 2012
The patient, a young rodeo rider from rural Ohio, lies in a hospital bed, sick and in pain. The doctor has the results of his bone marrow biopsy and the news isn't good.

Guest Blog: A New Breed of Doctor

Anne Polta | March 5, 2012
Starting in 2015, students who aspire to become doctors will be tested on more than just their knowledge of the sciences. They'll also need to have a good understanding of psychology, sociology and biology and how these forces help shape individual health and behavior.

Opening Up the Doctor's Notebook

Anne Polta | January 13, 2012
If you could see what your doctor wrote about you in your medical record, would this hurt or enhance your relationship? A new survey found that the majority of patients more than 90 percent are supportive and even enthusiastic about being able to read the doctor's notes. But among physicians, the reaction was mixed.