What's Your Health Personality?

Understanding your health preferences can help you be proactive about your care

Health care providers spend a lot of time observing and talking to their patients. And what they see often extends beyond test results and symptoms. They also observe personality traits that can influence the ways people approach their health care.

"While doctors tailor care to the individual, understanding your own health personality and preferences could help you take a more proactive approach to your health," says Kristopher Carpenter, MD, a primary care physician at Rush Oak Park Hospital.

The student

Students do their homework. They research conditions and treatments before appointments and come prepared with questions. Because they enjoy research, students often know the breadth of treatment options — traditional as well as alternative therapies — and may be more open to using acupuncture, yoga and herbal remedies to address health issues.

Results — like healthy cholesterol numbers — are important to students, so they are more likely to exercise, eat well and follow doctors' orders, Carpenter says.

Tips for students:

  • Refer to reliable sources when doing research, such as the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association.
  • Include herbal remedies when listing medicines you take. Mixing traditional and alternative medicines can sometimes cause side effects or lessen a medicine's effectiveness.

The skeptic

Skeptics have little faith in medicine or their doctors. In fact, they’d rather not go to the doctor at all, but an illness or injury sometimes requires it. They have more of an "I can do it myself" approach. When a doctor suggests they take a medicine to address high blood pressure, for instance, they may skip the meds and focus on lifestyle changes like reducing sodium.

Tips for skeptics:

  • See a doctor regularly for yearly check-ups and follow-ups. Trust with your providers and the health care system builds over time. Not there yet? Try visiting a walk-in clinic to ensure you address pressing health concerns.
  • Ask your doctor for data about the effectiveness of your treatment options. The data just might inspire you to follow your doctor's recommendations. Think you don't really need to take that prescribed medicine? Ask your doctor why he or she prescribed it.

The list-maker

List-makers are health savvy but short on time. To be time-efficient, they save up their questions and concerns for one doctor's visit.

The problem is, time constraints often force them to put off those visits. And when it's finally time to see the doctor, there's plenty of terrain to cover, and important issues like vaccines or family history don't get the deep discussion they deserve.

Tips for list-makers:

  • In between check-ups, communicate with your care team through MyChart (online access to your health record). Or try Rush's SmartExam to connect with a Rush provider over email for treatment of common illnesses, such as rashes and seasonal allergies.
  • Prioritize your concerns to make sure you get the most important questions answered. It can help to write everything down and bring the list to your appointment so you don't forget in the moment.

When doctors advise them, partners trust the advice because they know it comes from a good place.

The partner

"All patients can end up as 'the partner,' " says Carpenter. "In fact, it's the ideal."

Partners work with their clinicians to build trusting, open relationships. They see themselves as active members of their health care team.

"When doctors advise them, partners trust the advice because they know it comes from a good place," Carpenter says.

For some, it takes years of office visits to become a partner. For others, partnerships form quickly after a health crisis like a stroke. But you don't need to wait to be a partner. It can start at your first office visit.

Tips to become a partner:

  • Look for doctors who communicate well by explaining things like lab results and what they mean, and discussing treatment goals.
  • Be honest, and give doctors your full health history about past illnesses and lifestyle habits.

Related Stories