We’re not that far removed from the days when a doctor’s word was automatically accepted and patients didn’t ask questions or expect to be deeply involved in health care decisions. In fact, some patients with life-threatening illnesses like cancer were never even told about their diagnosis.

Patient empowerment

It took women’s health and other consumer advocates many decades to change the “doctor knows best” expectation to one that puts patients first. To prioritize patients’ understanding of their unique situations and involvement in health care conversations. To ensure that all patients have clear, comprehensive information about the drugs they take, including how the medication works and what its risks are. To get women included in research about diseases and other conditions that affect their well-being.

"We’ve come a long way from the days when women were expected to unquestioningly follow doctor’s orders."

The great news is that women now know they can and should be an informed decision-making partner with their health care team. Today, we're much more likely to research our health concerns, ask our medical team questions about treatment options and seek a second opinion before we make any decisions.

Staying informed

But it can be hard to become an informed decision-maker, especially in the Internet age. Who hasn’t gone online to look up a health question only to be bombarded with information, much of it scary? There’s just an overwhelming amount of information available at the touch of a button. And, sadly, not all of it’s accurate and trustworthy.

How can we tell what’s real, and what’s just a promotion for someone’s product or pet cause? One way is to use sources that offer information and recommendations based on scientific evidence—not a desire to promote a product or maximize profits. Trustworthy resources include government websites, like www.womenshealth.gov, and efforts like Choosing Wisely, which helps people avoid unnecessary medical treatments and learn what questions to ask their health care team.

We’ve come a long way from the days when women were expected to unquestioningly follow doctor’s orders. But we can do even better, armed with accurate information based on the facts. With these tools, women can make informed decisions about the best choice for their unique health situation. Here’s to better health, for all of us.