I don’t usually go so long between writing these blog posts and I promise not to make it a habit, it’s just that enrolling in a full-time Master’s program while working full-time might have been a little more than I can neatly chew. Not that it hasn’t been amazing, interesting and full of fun, it really has, and so today I want to give you little taste of what’s been keeping me so busy.
The focus of my research this term is engagement, or better explained, the meaningful involvement of patients in health care. Still not sure what that means exactly? Well, it can mean a lot of things, starting with creating solutions and ways in which to encourage adults to actively take charge of their own diet, exercise, medication, treatment and overall health care while cutting overall health care costs. What is really exciting for me, is that it goes hand in hand with what I hope to achieve with my clients each and everyday. I want my clients to take charge of their own lives, learn new skills and take into account all the different factors and options that affect their health and health care costs, and have the confidence to seek the right care to live happy and healthy lives.
Since people who lack the skills or confidence to manage their own health care cost the system 21% more, it is in everyone’s best interest that we all fight to become better consumers of health care. How does one become a better, more engaged and more informed health consumer? Below are some tips to get you started:
How to be a more informed health care consumer, save money and experience better overall health:
1. Take care of yourself.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but did you know that medical costs of those who do not exercise and eat well are significantly higher than those who do? Keeping yourself healthy is the best way to keep health care costs down. Sure, you may not be able to control a family history of disease, but you can control what you do about your individual risk factors. Lifestyle choices such as what you eat, how active you are, whether you smoke and other important factors affect what and how often you need health care.
2. Take advantage of preventive screenings and check-ups.
Taking regular health exams and tests can help find problems before they even start. You are more likely to catch problems early when your chances for treatment and cure are better. By getting the right health services, screenings, and treatments, you take steps that help your chances for living a longer, healthier life.
3. Learn to recognize common health problems.
In the U.S. alone, there were approximately 735 million visits to physicians in 1996, that’s 2.8 visits for every person in the United States. According to surveys, about 25% of these doctor visits were unnecessary. That’s 184 million doctor visits that weren’t needed! By learning what health problems are treatable without the help of a physician, you can save yourself both time and hard earned cash. Here is a good list for when to call on a doctor. Consider the following: What is a real medical emergency? When do I need to consult a physician? Can I treat this illness myself? What self-care procedure should I use?
4. Ask questions and be prepared.
- Before you make an appointment with a doctor, think through your symptoms and consider what may be causing your health concern. Make a list of any and all medications you may be taking. Take the list with you to your appointment.
- Once you are at the doctor’s office, ask your doctor even more questions. Have your list of specific questions and don’t forget that medication list as well.
- Ask about the safety, effectiveness and cost of procedures. Learn all you can about your condition and any medications you are prescribed. Be certain you are getting the care you need and are not getting unnecessary care or duplicate tests.
5. Know your insurance plan.
Become familiar with what your insurance company covers and don’t be afraid to use the features that help you prevent illness or manage current conditions. Insurance companies would rather spend a little bit of money on preventive care than a lot of money on expensive treatment of a condition that wasn’t caught earlier.
6. Visit emergency rooms only in true emergencies.
Have a plan in place well before an actual emergency ever arises. Make a list of health helplines, doctors, and urgent care centers and keep them all close to a first aid kit. In many cases, an urgent care center provides equivalent care for about a third of the cost of an emergency room visit, less exposure to other diseases and should have less wait times than the ER.
7. Don’t be a brand junkie.
Instead of automatically purchasing a brand-name medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist if a generic equivalent is available and right for you. Generic equivalents of brand-name medications contain the same active ingredients and are subject to the same rigid Federal Drug Administration standards for quality, strength and purity as their brand-name counterparts.
8. Follow the advice of your health professional!
Once you’ve done your research and found yourself the right doctor, pharmacists, health coach, nutritionist or personal trainer for you, then be sure to follow through on your prescribed course of treatment. No matter if it’s a medication regimen prescribed by your doctor or an exercise program created by your personal trainer, don’t just give up if you don’t see immediate results. It may take some time for your body to adjust, but giving up on a prescribed course of treatment can lead to complications and cost more money in the long run.
So there you have it, some common sense stuff, but stuff that needed to be said. The more I learn about solving problems in health care, the happier I am about being in a field that allows me to help my clients on a daily basis, at the first point of entry in the health care system. If I can help keep my clients fit, healthy and strong, then there is less reasons for them to get caught up in the health care system for more serious health conditions.
Do you think you are an informed health care consumer? Ever go to your doctor’s appointment with questions? Do you take notes while you’re there? Feel free to comment, I would love to hear about your point of view or experience.
To being Positively Strong,