The citizens of the United Sates have access to the most advanced health-care system in the world.
The best medicines, diagnostic tests and treatments are right at our fingertips – that is, if you can navigate through the system.
Health care is already a multi-billion dollar per year industry that strains the pockets of both the consumers and the insurance companies responsible for payment of services. As such, the push to restrict the number of procedures performed and the volume of office visits to outpatient clinicians has left some patients without adequate care.
Rationing services has become an unavoidable part of clinical practice for nearly all healthcare providers. Under this model of care popularized by HMOs in the early 1990s, it has become increasingly more important to be an educated consumer.
Despite the notion that our country offers some of the most innovative and comprehensive treatments available – especially here in the northeast section of the country – you still need to arm yourself with a little knowledge when you go to your next medical appointment.
Unfortunately, less than 10 percent of the American population is able to self-advocate well enough to circumvent waiting periods for treatment and optimize the care they receive. So if you’ve ever been unprepared for an office visit or if you’ve ever felt confused after one, read on to see how you can get the most out of your checkups.
Ask questions—– lots of them. You have a right as a patient to know the specifics of your management plan and other treatment options. Medical appointments are typically filled with hard-to-process information that may cause you to lose your train of thought, so write some of your questions down beforehand to ensure you don’t forget to ask them.
Call the triage nurse if you have a question about your treatment plan. The triage nurse is a great first-step to ironing out wrinkles in your medical care. Their job is to return phone calls and help keep you happy and on track – so don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and give the office a call.
Journal your medical history so you don’t lose track of important pieces of information. Given the difficulty and complexity of today’s health problems, it’s a wonder that misdiagnosis isn’t more of a problem. The more pieces your practitioner has, the more clearly they can see the outline of the puzzle.
Keep a current copy of your medication list handy for every appointment. Be sure to include any supplements or vitamins you take too – many of them have interactions with prescribed medications, rendering them either more or less potent.
Consider bringing a family member or friend to the appointment with you. Two people rarely hear a story the same way, and the same axiom holds true for medical appointments.
Another set of ears to help you interpret the message may not be a bad thing, especially if the subject matter isn’t that sensitive.
Gloucester resident Joe DiVincenzo is a physical therapist and clinical specialist in manual therapy. He writes “On the Mend” weekly. Questions may be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.