How to Be a Wise Health Care Consumer

Every health care provider visit or medication treatment presents you with choices and responsibilities. Sometimes the right choice isn’t so clear.

Here are common problems you may run into as a health care consumer, with tips for wise responses:

  • The treatment your health care provider prescribed isn’t working. Maybe it’s the wrong treatment for you. Or, maybe you’re taking the right treatment in the wrong way. In any case, your health care provider needs to know. Ask him or her to explain the treatment directions, or to suggest any available treatment alternatives.

  • The side effects seem worse than the cure. Are you worried about the impact of medication side effects on your health or well-being? Are you cutting back on your prescription because of side effects? Again, let your health care provider know. Perhaps there’s a different pill you can take that’s just as effective without side effects. Or, maybe the dosage can be changed.

  • The hospital bill looks wrong. Do the dates of service look wrong? Have you been charged twice for the same procedure, or for a service or supply item that you never received? By checking your hospital bill, you have an opportunity to fix any errors and perhaps trim your out-of-pocket costs. If you feel your insurance plan has made a mistake by denying coverage, call the company. If a hospital charge seems out of line, ask your health plan to look into it.

  • You’re considering a “miracle” treatment. The Internet is full of products that sound too good to be true, and are. Even television ads aren’t always to be trusted. Talk with your health care provider before buying.

  • You’re not satisfied with your health care provider. If you don’t believe your health care provider knows enough about your condition, consider looking for another health care provider. You deserve a health care provider who explains things in a language you understand, listens and encourages questions, and supports you in managing your condition.

  • A recommended treatment makes you uneasy. Don’t rush into important health decisions. Ask: Why do I need this surgery? Are there any alternatives to this treatment? What are the risks and benefits? Get a second opinion, if necessary.

  • You feel out of control in your care. Feeling out of control often has to do with a lack of knowledge. To learn more about your condition and how to self-manage it, contact a respected nonprofit group, such as the American Cancer Society or the American Heart Association, to request information. Go to respected online sites. Ask your health care provider for brochures.

  • You know you should quit smoking, eat better, exercise, but it’s just not happening. Do you need more support in making lifestyle changes? Talk with your health care provider. Also, many employers now offer worksite health-promotion programs. Family members and friends can offer support, as well as people going through the same challenges you are. Look into online programs or support groups.

Keep in mind that the ability to ask for help in sticking with your health care provider’s advice is important as a wise health care consumer.

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