Are you a wise consumer when it comes to your health care? That is one of the questions that the American Institute for Preventive Medicine (AIPM) is asking. They point to studies that show Americans spend more time researching car purchases and new appliances than they do choosing doctors and health plans.
Even though escalating health care costs are burdening both employers and employees, the Institute reported that many consumers are shy about asking doctors to reduce their charges or questioning the worth of expensive tests. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality announced that about 25% of all visits to a physician or an emergency room are unnecessary. And according to The Institute of Medicine $210 billion is spent each year in unnecessary use of high-cost services.
The Institute published a pamphlet entitled, “101 Ways to Lower Your Health Care Costs.” Some of the ways included:
- Use on-line resources
- Seek a second opinion
- Be organized when it comes to billing – ask for an itemized bill
- Understand your health insurance policy
- Stop smoking
- Don’t overeat
The list also included the importance of asking questions. The AIPM advises that a wise consumer can question the tests or x-rays advised, asking why they are necessary.
Asking questions is a great idea for all health care consumers. It can lead to better diagnosis of the problem, better exploration of treatment options and sometimes identifying less invasive treatments, including seeking integrative or alternative care. According to Katherine Kam at WebMD, “Both doctors and patients alike are bonding with the philosophy of integrative medicine and its whole-person approach -- designed to treat the person, not just the disease. IM, as it's often called, depends on a partnership between the patient and the doctor, where the goal is to treat the mind, body, and spirit, all at the same time.” This opens the door for the patient to select the care he feels comfortable with and can afford.
This “patient-centered care” or “person-centered care” approach encourages patients to ask questions. Author Howard Gleckman in Forbes Magazine stated that “this kind of care requires doctors, nurses, and social workers to take the time to get to know their patients and what they want.” He stated that such conversations offer the patient various options including spiritual care instead of medical care, or even both.
Asking questions is good for every health care decision-making process. When the process seems overwhelming (and it might seem as if only the wisdom of Solomon can lead to the right answers), many people turn to prayer to help them make the choices that are right for them. They might even remember Solomon who prayed for a “wise and understanding heart”.
Asking questions – it’s not a bad thing!
Thomas (Tim) Mitchinson is a self-syndicated health columnist and media representative for Christian Science in Illinois