Health care costs in retirement pose the greatest threat to an individual’s financial well being. When looking for ways to get a handle on medical costs, it pays to be proactive and ask lots of questions of your health care providers. Being prepared and knowing how to talk to your medical providers may save you money.
Trends in health care today are impacting traditional doctor/patient relationships. Anticipating a coming shortage of Primary Care Physicians, patient care teams now include Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners. These care providers are often able to spend more quality time with patients and are fully qualified to handle many of the services and procedures that only doctors did. In addition, access to technology, patient portals and educational materials help make everyone better health care consumers.
Here are just a few ideas to help improve communications during a doctor’s appointment:
- Be prepared. Write down and bring with you, the most important problems you are experiencing. Since face time is often limited, this will help your doctor know what to focus on first. Be ready to tell the doctor how long the situation has been going on. What makes it better or worse. Any patterns you observed, like is there a time of day that is better or worse?
- Bring a complete list of your medications and dosages. Better yet, bring the bottles so your doctor can see what you’re taking instead of just reading them from a list. Seeing the bottles may have much more impact and help him/her determine if any medications can be eliminated or dosages reduced. Its critical to be sure to mention any over the counter medications, vitamins and supplements you’re taking as well.
- Keep medical records and documentation organized and in one location. Copies of recent test results, lab reports, surgeries and other health information will be useful to bring along anytime you start seeing a new doctor or one that is out of your network. If you are a user of the cloud, you can store the information so it can easily be called up on a mobile device and shared.
- Don’t be embarrassed about bringing up the cost of services with your doctor. However, his/her billing office will probably be more knowledgeable about the projected costs you can expect.
- If you are scheduled for surgery ask who may be assisting and if they are in your network or not. Some anesthesiologists, for example, are not directly affiliated with the hospital and may be outside your network. This prevents surprises when your bill arrives.
The Patient Advocate Foundation provides a useful job aid that can be printed and kept on hand about how to discuss the cost of care treatments with care providers. And check out this insightful article from the L.A. Times that encourages patient/doctor communication, especially when talking about prescriptions costs.