Seven Tips to be a Smart Healthcare Consumer


Consumers, like me and you, play a key role in all aspects of healthcare delivery because good health doesn’t just happen on its own. Taking an active role in your health is the best way to prevent disease, get great care, and reduce costs at the same time. A smart healthcare consumer doesn’t just ask the right questions of their doctor, but knows it’s also about prevention, self-care, and knowing where to find resources. By being a smart healthcare consumer you can make good decisions that will have a positive impact on your physical and financial health. Here are some tips:

  1. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Healthy living is one area of your life you can control. By exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, being tobacco free, and getting adequate rest, you may help to ward off preventable chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
  2. Practice prevention and self-care. By getting the age-appropriate health screenings and immunizations, you are taking a proactive approach to prevent potential conditions. In addition, by knowing what you can do at home to help minimize the symptoms of a cold or flu, you can prevent unnecessary trips to the doctor’s office. Self-care hand books are a great resource to have on hand, as well as quick access to their online counterpart.
  3. Select healthcare providers carefully. Putting in as much time to select a new vehicle or appliance as you do your Primary Care Physician (PCP) will benefit you greatly. Seek recommendations from family and friends, look to your health plan to see which physicians are in-network, and know what you want from a PCP. Once you have narrowed down your list, here are a few other questions you may wish to ask to help you make your decision:
    • What are the office hours?
    • Is there a covering doctor when the office is closed? If not, what plans are in place for patients to receive care after hours?
    • Does the doctor have a subspecialty that fits your needs, such as experience working with children, the elderly, or people with disabilities?
    • Is the doctor available over the phone during office hours? If not, is there a nurse who can answer your questions?
    • Does the doctor use email?
    • What hospital(s) does the doctor use? 
    • Does he/she use a physician assistant?
    • How long does it take and how easy is it to book an appointment?
    • What's the average wait time once you've arrived at the office?
    • Does he/she generally call or set-up a follow up appointment to inquire about my progress/well-being?
  4. Look for ways to save money. There are many ways to save money when it comes to seeking care, such as using in-network doctors and facilities. Look for ways to save on your prescription drugs by asking for a generic equivalent or using the mail order option. You should also check your medical bills and explanation of benefits for accuracy, and seek the most appropriate and cost-effective places for your condition.
  5. Seek reliable sources of information. Use resources like the library, your doctor, your health plan provider, and reliable websites that you can trust to help you gather the facts. Make sure the information you collect is based on sound medical research, not the results of a single study, a personal blog, or facts published by a company that will profit by you using its product.
  6. Effectively use health plan benefits. Do you know what your co-insurance, deductible, and maximum out-of-pocket are for your health plan?What about covered services under your preventive health benefit? These are the basic things you should know to effectively use your plan.
  7. Take an active approach in preventing medical errors. It’s everyone’s responsibility to prevent medical errors. You can take an active role by asking questions and voicing your concern, triple checking your prescriptions, and by keeping track of your tests results. If you have to have a procedure, be sure to research outcomes and costs, choose a doctor and hospital that has experience in your procedure, understand how to prepare for your surgery, and make sure you understand the proper care you’ll need after your hospital stay.

Sources:
webmd.com
planforyourhealth.com
advantageben.com

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Last updated 5/8/2018