Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Five Vital Skills to be The Thrifty Patient
From my upcoming book - The Thrifty Patient - Vital Insider Tips For Saving Money And Staying Healthy
Five Vital Skills to Staying Healthy and Saving Money
Throughout the book, we’ve covered various important aspects of getting the right care. It boils down to five separate but important areas you should be knowledgeable about: the doctor’s office visit, prescription medications, preventive screening tests and interventions, selecting the right doctors, and using the Internet. Each is also important to help save money. For example, learning how to communicate with doctors clearly about your concerns and needs as well as providing the doctor the information he needs can decrease the likelihood of unnecessary testing and medications. When seeing a doctor, the goal is to solve the problem you are having. It isn’t to get all of the imaging tests, lab work, or prescription medications available. When focused on the right goal, you get the right care and save money.
Sometimes, paradoxically, this may mean spending money to see the doctor to pick his brain and get his expertise. You may be tempted to ask for blood work or a MRI first and skip the office visit. Talking to a doctor seems so old-fashioned and out of date. Yet, as we will review, lab work and imaging tests are simply tools to help doctors. By themselves, without a good patient history, the test results have little meaning.
If your doctor recommends prescription medication, then there are ways to ensure that the medications you receive are effective and affordable. Many prescription medications are simply me-too or copycat drugs. Pharmaceutical companies market and promote these medications as aggressively as beer and soda. Don’t be fooled. When a medical condition is common, such as heartburn, seasonal allergies, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes, save money by avoiding the latest advertised medication. There are often plenty of excellent and less expensive alternatives.
Focusing on prevention is extremely important. Getting screened for cancer and requesting vaccinations can keep you healthy. It isn’t particularly sexy, trendy, or even fun depending on these tests, but they can save your life. Periodically check out what the latest guidelines are, as the recommendations can change with continued medical research.
Identifying which doctor to go to is also important to getting the right care. It is extremely rare that any one doctor is the “best.” Don’t worry about finding the best, but rather focus on finding doctors who provide excellent quality care and who also listen to you. How do you determine if a doctor is good? How do you find one? Who is on your medical team? Should you always have a primary care doctor? If you need a specialist, how do you choose?
We also will review the use of the Internet and social media as a way to keep you informed. The ease of accessing information can both be a blessing and a curse. Used correctly, information from the Internet, whether from trusted health care organizations, patient or doctor blogs, or tweets, can improve decision making. It may help you determine if a symptom requires medical attention or can be safely treated and managed at home. Yet the access to this information can be equally as problematic.
The Internet, much like the lab tests and imaging studies doctors use, is still a tool. Like any tool, it can be helpful or harmful depending on how a person uses it. A simple rule of thumb—if an answer or solution sounds too good to be true, it often is.
Increasingly, you are being asked to pay more for medical care and be more responsible in making medical decisions. Knowledge is power. It isn’t that hard. Let me show you how.
Five simple skills can make you a thrifty patient who is staying healthy and saving money.
Finally, just a brief primer on what you should do outside of where I work regularly, the medical system. For most of us, life is not filled with doctor visits. That’s a good thing. Sometimes you or a loved one does, however, need our help. This is the first step to getting you the skills you need to stay healthy and choose wisely.
Let’s get started.