7 ways to stay a savvy patient

7 ways to stay a savvy patient

As health care becomes more complex, health consumers must become savvier as they select their providers and treatment options. You, the patient, are the most important member of your health care team. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, more vigorous advocacy by patients leads to better health for their bodies and their pocketbooks.

Here are seven ways you can ensure you're getting the best health care at the fairest price:

1. Understand upfront what your insurance will pay.
Many insurance providers won’t pay – at least in the early stages of treatment – for treatments that they consider experimental. That doesn’t mean the treatment isn’t effective or that you shouldn’t have it performed, only that you will need to pay for it out of pocket if you choose that option.

2. Check your doctor’s bill against what the insurance will pay.
Though insurance may leave you with a feeling of security, there are times a company will refuse to pay a doctor’s stated rate. Both the doctor and you have the option of negotiating the cost of provided services. The doctor can negotiate with the insurance company, and you can negotiate with the doctor to reduce fees.

3. Always get a second opinion after a major diagnosis and before treatment.
In medicine, as in anything else, there is often more than one way to approach a problem. And even the diagnosis may not be firm, depending on the criteria used by a health professional.

4. Research the treatment options suggested by your doctor.
It’s probably not in your best interests to diagnose your symptoms yourself, but it is a good idea to understand treatment options thoroughly before agreeing to them. Many government and health-related websites can give you information about your condition and side effects of treatment.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask about alternative treatment options.
For many conditions, there are alternative treatments that can be effective for some people. If your doctor isn’t open to discussing a wider range of options, find one who will.

6. Research the best facility for treatment of your condition.
Most hospitals provide a range of services for many conditions, but they may not specialize in the course of treatment you seek. It’s possible you may have to travel long distances to get the most up-to-date or least invasive treatment for your condition.

7. Before filling a prescription, learn more about the medication.
If you can’t read your doctor’s handwriting on the prescription, ask him or her for the correct spelling of the medication. Also, ask whether there are any side effects and/or possible interactions with other over-the-counter and prescribed medications you take.

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