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Resolve to be Your Own Best Health Advocate in 2016
Health Care Consultant Michael Newell Offers Tips for the Newly Insured, and Anyone Seeking Care in the New Year
HADDONFIELD, N.J., Dec. 30, 2015 – Since the Affordable Care Act took effect, about 16 million uninsured Americans have gained health coverage, according to the Department of Health & Human Services. As a result, many of them have become newly empowered to see a doctor for conditions that previously went unaddressed, and undiagnosed.
For those entering or even re-entering the health care system, it pays to advocate for your own health, both to ensure you’re maximizing your care and outcome, and to avoid needless fees for unnecessary visits and ever-inflating co-pays. Essentially, the more you know, plan, communicate and question, the better health results you will achieve.
“Resolve to become your own best health care advocate in the new year. There are practical steps the newly insured can take to get the most out of their health care, but these same strategies can help everyone who needs to interact with the health system,” says Michael Newell, president of Lifespan Care Management, a health care advocacy agency in Haddonfield, N.J. “Everyone has the same goal: to get healthy, stay healthy and spend as little as possible.”
To that end, Newell offers the following tips for those seeking good health in 2016:
Do a self-assessment. Take an inventory of your health history, including anything significant that has happened medically during your life. For example, a series of concussive blows to your head on the athletic field in college could make you susceptible for dementia as you get older. Review your family history for Parkinson’s disease, cancer or heart disease, to determine your own susceptibility. Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) pinpoints likelihood of developing certain diseases and can provide information regarding response to certain medications.
Organize. Gather your health records, or request from your doctor any records you think will be pertinent, so you have them on hand when needed. If you’ve ever been hospitalized, ask your doctor to get an abstract from the hospital for his records or your own. Take advantage of accessing your records through your doctor or hospital website by signing up for this service.
Set specific health goals, and communicate them with your provider. “Sometimes it’s not enough to say ‘I want to feel better.’ You need to articulate specific goals, functions or needs to your doctor. For example, you might say ‘I want to be able to complete the walking path in the park without gasping by the end.’” says Newell. “I had a client whose wife was prone to falls, and he complained to his doctor that his shoulder hurt badly whenever he went to pick her up. That doctor advised him to get a shoulder replacement, but he got a second opinion and found out with a new shoulder he wouldn’t be able to bear the weight of his wife. The second doctor prescribed physical therapy and anti-inflammatories, and in three weeks he was pain free. The moral is, have a vision of what result you want from the encounter or series of encounters, then communicate that goal.”
Bring a scribe. Often, the doctor will provide much information during a visit, and it’s common that people don’t hear everything the doctor said during the appointment, especially if you are not fully clothed. Health providers tend to use technical language that not all of us understand. Try to bring someone with you to take notes of your conversation, to ensure you have all vital information when you leave. Think of this person as your “court reporter.” Similarly, have a prepared list of questions for your doctor.
Get on the same page. “The new standard of care is at the end of the visit, you should get a piece of paper that says what you came in for, what the doctor did, what the diagnosis is, what tests were conducted and the results, and what the treatment plan is,” says Newell, who notes that most physicians will do this automatically under the Meaningful Use provision of the Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Program. “This way you and your physician will be on the same page about why you made the appointment in the first place.” Also, if a follow-up visit is recommended, schedule it with the reception staff before you leave the office, so you won’t forget.
LifeSpan Care Management is a health advocacy consulting firm that does privately paid
medical case management, servicing the families of the elderly and chronically ill. Services
include attending doctor visits, care conferences, insurance coverage appeals, medical record
reviews and general problem solving on behalf of clients and their families. For more
information visit: www.CareManagerNJ.com.