Reference Guide Helps Consumers Navigate Complex Healthcare System

Even the best informed patient or caregiver can find the complex healthcare system overwhelming. In an effort to help consumers get the most out of their healthcare and engage them within the process, AHIMA has developed a reference guide on how to adequately prepare for a doctor or hospital visit and assess and understand the health records created during care.

The guide, “Patients, Caregivers, and Advocates: Preparing for a Doctor’s Visit,” has been posted on, AHIMA’s patient-facing website that offers resources to patients, their caregivers, and physicians for accessing and effectively using health information. The guide offers case studies on how to use health information and ask effective questions during treatment, provides advice on how to locate and use a “patient advocate,” and discusses patient and caregiver rights to access copies of health records.

A patient advocate is a person or agency that acts on another patient’s behalf to make appointments, help with billing questions, get pre-approval of tests or surgeries, help access health records, take the patient to appointments, ask questions during a medical visit, and talk with family about their healthcare needs, according to the guide. Some HIM professionals have transitioned into acting as patient advocates due to their role with release of medical information and their wide understanding of the clinical and financial sides of healthcare.

A checklist is also provided to guide patients through what to do before and after a doctor or hospital visit. For example, before a visit to a clinic a patient should make sure they have updated family medical information and personal information, a list of allergies, copies of past records, a list of questions to ask the physician, and a list of dates of all tests performed, according to the checklist. After the visit, the checklist encourages patients to get a list of medications, obtain a copy of their visit summary, and sign up for patient portal access, if available, to obtain other health information.

In order to stay involved in either your own or a loved one’s healthcare, the reference guide states you should engage the healthcare system in five areas:

  • Empower—understand the importance and the responsibilities of being your own patient advocate or serving as an advocate for a loved one
  • Inform—understand and know your rights to access your health record
  • Involve—prepare for your doctor or hospital visit by considering the reference guide’s checklist
  • Consult—write down questions to ask your doctor or insurance company prior to the visit
  • Collaborate—understand your financial responsibilities


While the guide is developed for consumers, AHIMA officials say they also hope HIM professionals will recommend the guide and make it available to the patients and caregivers they encounter during their work and everyday life.

Click here to access the resource guide and checklist.


1 Comment

  1. Hi there, the link doesn’t seem to be working. Please update! Thank you.

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