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The Healthcare Consumer: Do You Know Enough?

Updated on June 25, 2020
Carl Lee profile image

Kari Lane is a doctoral-level registered nurse. Her expertise is in geriatrics. She has a familial, hereditary, sensorineural hearing loss.

Healthcare Consumer: You


Healthcare Consumers

You play an important role in your healthcare. The largest role is being an informed health care consumer and making informed decisions. Today, with health care costs on the rise nationwide, your medical and pharmacy benefits are more valuable than ever before. Yet, you may not be taking full advantage of the coverage options available to you. What can you, as a plan participant, do to help manage health care costs? First, you need to know that you play a critical role in this process.

It is important to treat your health like any other purchase you would make. Take the time to research your choices, examine the treatment options, and obtain second opinions.

1. Once you have a diagnosis, do you need a second opinion? If so who would be a good choice? A physician at another healthcare institution would be a good start.

a. Do not wait until you are ill to find a primary care physician. Interview several before choosing the best fit. Examine their office hours, who is on call when they are off and which hospital they routinely admit patients to.

b. Ask about what training this type of specialist needs.and ensure your physician has that training.

c. Ask about how quickly you will be seen. Do you need to typically wait 2 weeks, 4 weeks, longer? Can you be seen the same day as you call.

d. Make sure your physician is covered by your healthcare plan.

2. Not everything on the internet is true, so find good sources to research your treatment options. Research everything from which doctors to see to which treatments or medicines to take.

3. Don't forget to check out the costs of the treatment and any alternatives that may provide the same results at a lower cost. Run things by your health insurance company for good cost comparisons.

Be wary of the internet

Be careful of the internet. Only about 20% of the information online about health is accurate. So use websites that are more valid such as drug manufacturers and governmental sites.

Asking your doctor questions

Do not be afraid to ask your doctor questions. Come prepared with a short list of questions written down. Put the top 3-4 questions on your list in a notebook, and write down what the physician says to each.

If you still have questions after your visit, ask the nurse, or email the questions to your physician. Email is a great way to communicate with your physician today.

At Your Appointment bring:

  • a list of all medications (both prescription and over the counter including herbal supplements) you take
  • your health history - diagnoses and surgeries
  • any other physicians you see (names and contact information)
  • your insurance card, driver's license, and social security card
  • emergency contact, name and phone numbers
  • any advanced directives and/or living wills (hard copies)

Have Your Living Will Prepared

Always keep your living will up to date. Updating your living will yearly will keep your physician prepared. Remember to also talk to your family about your wishes.
Always keep your living will up to date. Updating your living will yearly will keep your physician prepared. Remember to also talk to your family about your wishes. | Source

At Your Doctor's Office Visit

True or False: Patients with diabetes should always take off their shoes and socks at each doctor's visit before the doctor comes into the room.

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Lecture on Being a Good Healthcare Consumer


Here are some places to get information about medical conditions and hospital quality:

  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services developed this Web site for consumers. It provides links to more than 1,500 health-related organizations.
    Go to:
  • Hospital Compare: This government Web site provides information on how well hospitals treat patients who have been admitted for certain medical conditions.
    Go to:
  • Quality Check™.org: This Web site is a guide to health care organizations and is sponsored by an organization called the Joint Commission. You can search by city and State, or by name and ZIP Code (up to 250 miles).
    Go to:
  • Nonprofit Organizations: Many nonprofit organizations provide education and support to patients and their families about certain diseases. They can direct you to physicians who are experts in treating those diseases.
  • American Hospital Association: This website discusses how to get the right care at the right time and the processes hospitals take to ensure quality.

The Importance of Medication

Always know your medication. Bringing a handful of pills to the doctor and saying this is what you take, is the nurse's worst nightmare!
Always know your medication. Bringing a handful of pills to the doctor and saying this is what you take, is the nurse's worst nightmare! | Source

Yes you can be a good healthcare consumer

Having a better understanding of the healthcare system is always beneficial to
you, the healthcare consumer. Knowing what treatment options are available,
the processes involved in visits, and the broad range of choices you
can make and directions you can take allow you to have an optimal healthcare

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2014 Kari Lane


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