“The doctor always knows best.” It wasn’t that long ago when many people believed it was inappropriate to question anything their doctor said. After all, they were the ones that went to medical school, so they must have all the answers, right? But no matter how good your doctor is, you still need to be your own healthcare advocate. You know your body better than anyone else. Taking control means that you and your doctors make decisions as a team and that any concerns you have should be addressed. Taking an active role in your health matters as it ensures you get the services and support you need. FirstLantic offers six tips to ensure that you get the best treatment possible.
1. Do Your Research
- Before going to a physician, validate their credentials, find out whether any complaints have been filed, and check patient reviews. To check on credentials and complaints, The Federation of State Medical Boards is a good place to start. You can verify their license and board certification and see if any disciplinary actions have been taken. Reviews are critical because they can tell much about a doctor’s bedside manner. They might have the most amazing credentials, but if you can’t have an open dialogue with them, they may not be the right fit.
- Make sure you fully understand what is covered by your healthcare insurance. Does the office visit require a co-pay? Does your insurance cover lab tests, and which type? Do they cover the cost of prescriptions, and do they need you to use generic options when possible? Also, before you agree to any unexpected treatment options or tests, ensure you know what costs are responsible for paying, so you don’t get surprises.
- Research your symptoms, medications, and potential treatments before seeing a physician. The best patient is an informed one. Don’t go into an appointment without knowing your options. Many doctors are comfortable with specific approaches, but that may not always be the one that works best for you, so know if there are available alternatives. The same goes for medication. If your doctor always prescribes a particular drug, but you know that others are available that might have fewer side effects, then have that discussion with them.
2. Don’t Immediately Take No for an Answer
When it comes to insurance, things are incredibly complicated, making it challenging to know all your options. So, you shouldn’t immediately accept rejection by your insurance company for treatment, prescriptions, or out-of-network visits. If a doctor you need is out of network, you may be able to appeal or request an exception. The same goes for prescriptions. If your request for a specific drug is denied, you can appeal. The National Center on Law & Elder Rights posted how-to instructions from the Medicare Rights Center, an advocacy organization.
3. Know Your Health Insurance Options
Don’t leave an issue untreated because you don’t have health insurance. Some options include county- and state-funded programs that offer various medical and behavioral health services. You can find these services by calling 211, an information and referral line with information about community resources. You can also use the community health center locator from Healthcare.gov.
4. Ask for a Second Opinion
You wouldn’t buy a car or a house without due diligence, so why shouldn’t you do the same for something far more important, your health? According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, as many as one in 20 people can fall victim to outpatient diagnostic errors, and nearly everyone will be misdiagnosed in their lifetime. This can result from miscommunication between patients and physicians, primary care providers and specialists, or treatment involving multiple healthcare professionals.
5. Get Outside Help if Necessary
Navigating the medical system and insurance providers can become overwhelming, but resources such as patient advocates are available. Ask if your medical center has one, or you can contact organizations such as the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates or the National Patient Advocate Foundation.
6. Know Your Rights
- All staff should respectfully treat you at all times.
- If multiple physicians are treating you, request a call or meeting with everyone at once so that all parties are on the same page.
- As the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act requires, you have the right to keep your personal health information private and obtain all medical records.
- You have autonomy in choosing your treatment and the ability to get all the answers you need before making a decision. You should be thoroughly informed of risks, costs, and alternative options in advance.
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