Health care is changing, and whether it is for the better or the worse, the idea of visiting the doctor and working with insurance can be intimidating and overwhelming.
The average health care visit is between 10 and 15 minutes long, which does not leave a lot of time to discuss concerns in detail, and the mere cost of getting proper care is on the rise. This can cause a lot of frustration and irritation, leading many to skip the visit to their clinician all together.
With the help of these tips, hopefully you will feel more empowered and prepared.
1) Understand your insurance! How much your insurance covers, your co-pay, your deductible, your out-of-pocket, and your in-network are your responsibility, not that of your doctor.
Do a little research before your appointment or when you sign up for your plan. Really understand what you are getting for coverage. This will save you a lot of money in the future if you know what providers, hospitals, labs, and pharmacies are covered.
Not all insurances are created equal and plans vary even within the same company. If you know that your co-pay is $20, your deductible is $5000, and the local hospital lab is in-network, then you can relay this information to your doctor.
Thankfully a lot of this information is at your HR office, all on-line, or a phone call away from the 1-800 number on the back of your card.
2) Make a list of concerns but understand that you will probably only have time to discuss the top two. This means you can ask the receptionist for a longer/extended appointment, or you may have to have a follow-up appointment to discuss the rest of the things on your list.
A list will keep you on track and can be given to the nurse or even the doctor themselves to evaluate what is going on with your health.
3) Make a list of any changes to your health since your last visit. Have you changed medications or supplements? Have you had any major illnesses? Have you been hospitalized? Any major family events such as cancer, heart issues, or stroke?
Some people have more than one health care provider (primary care, gynecologist, eye doctor, endocrinologist, ear/nose/throat, dermatologist, etc.) and it is important to be up-to-date with everyone. This information may change how your doctor addresses your concerns when you go for your appointment.
4) Do not avoid the doctor, especially if symptoms worsen or do not resolve. There is a lot more that health care providers can do in the early stages of any condition than in the late stages. Please do not let fear or stubbornness keep you from leading a healthier life.
5) Remember that not all symptoms are the worst case scenario. If the fear of a bad diagnosis is keeping you from the doctor, know that headaches are not usually brain tumors, and fatigue is not usually cancer.
If your dad died of a heart attack at 50 years of age, please do not avoid a blood pressure and cholesterol test out of angst. It is better to have a check-up and get real answers so you can be proactive about a health problem, or find out all your worry was for nothing.
As the year comes to a close, many people have met their deductible, making December a good time to get in to see their health care provider one final time before the new deductible rolls over.
Make your list, check it twice, and live healthier!
What you can do to prepare for your doctor’s appointment. Harvard Pilgrim.org. Retrieved Dec. 8, 2014.
Talking With Your Doctor: A Guide for Older People. National Institute on Aging. Retrieved Dec. 8, 2014.
Reviewed December 8, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith