Strategies for Effectively Navigating Your Healthcare
Effectively navigating today’s healthcare is often complex, stressful, and confusing. As healthcare consumers, we make choices about our health every day. Here are some strategies for effectively taking control of your healthcare:
Strategy 1: Be A Responsible Patient:
Prepare for Your Appointment: Compile a brief prioritized list of questions about your concerns, symptoms, medication questions, and any major life changes. Gather the following documents and make sure they are located in one place (such as a binder or file folder): medical history, contact information for all of your medical providers, insurance coverage, emergency contact(s), current and accurate comprehensive medications list including supplements, eye drops, etc.
Make Sure to Ask Questions During Your Appointment: It is important to understand all of the information provided by your clinician. Make sure to ask all questions you have during your appointment and insist the answers are easily understood. If you don’t understand something, ask more questions. Making sure you have the correct information about a diagnosis or treatment options or instructions regarding a particular medication means you are able to make an informed decision.
The “Ask Me 3” tool, developed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, offers three basic questions to ask during any interaction with a clinician: What is my main problem? What do I need to do? What is it important to me to do this?
Bring Someone With You: Going to an appointment with a healthcare provider can be stressful. Having a friend, family member, or private patient advocate accompany you can offer support. This person can also take notes, prompt you about questions you may have overlooked, and serve as another set of “eyes and ears” in the room. Make sure to clarify the role you’d like this person to play beforehand.
Collect Contact Information: It is not only important to have your clinician’s contact information easily accessible, but it is also important to make sure you know what method s/he will use to respond to your inquiry. If you are someone who prefers a phone call instead of a note via an online portal, share that information at an appointment. Also ask when you can expect to hear back from the clinician. For example, in non-emergency situations your clinician responds to inquiries within 24 hours (or less or more) on weekdays.
Compile All Written Information: Make sure to have the name and dosage of a new medication written down when the physician prescribes it, especially now that we are not often provided hand written prescriptions. It is important to verify the medication and dosage is correct when receiving it from the pharmacy. Make sure to also confirm you understand all instructions related to taking the medication.
It is also important to ask for/access a copy of all lab and test results and your clinicians “visit notes,” so you can review them when you’d like, make sure you understand the information provided, and confirm it is correct. Consider keeping all documents in a healthcare binder or folder so that all current information is available to take with you easily.
Strategy 2: Know Reliable Sources for Health Information
There is a lot of health information online. It is important to remember that it is never a substitute for a professional medical opinion, diagnosis, or treatment plan. Here are some tips to find reliable sources:
Know how to evaluate the reliability of a website: Who owns the website (visit the About Us section); Are sources cited on the website? How recently has the website content been updated?
Use Filters When Searching Via Your Favorite Search Engines (usually found in Settings —> Advanced Search) that include only sites ending in .gov, or from a particular source.
For A Specific Condition: Seek out information about the National Support Organization or Local Office/Chapter
Visit a Local Library and Consult A Librarian
Strategy 3: Learn How The Healthcare and Insurance Systems Work
Learn how to Stay Safe throughout the Healthcare System:
Learn the Language of Insurance: Search Your Health Insurer’s Website, Patient Advocate Foundation
Read all paperwork available to you (online and in the mail) including visit notes, explanation/test results, Explanation of Benefits (EOB), Medicare Summary Notice and Medical Bills
Navigating healthcare effectively requires a commitment to preparation, seeking knowledge and support, and knowing how to access reliable resources. It is important that each patient view themselves as the most important member of their healthcare team. Knowing how to take control of healthcare decisions can significantly impact a patient’s medical/health outcome.
When the complexities of the situation are too challenging to navigate on your own working with an independent board certified patient advocate can help cut through the “red tape” and reduce complications at an emotional time. Contact Ailene to learn more about the value of working with a private patient advocate.