Top 10 Ways to Healthcare Consumer Empowerment
empowerment, a growing method of healthcare management for employers
and healthcare organizations, involves empowering yourselves by
learning how to become wiser healthcare consumers.
10 ways, suggested by California-based MetraHealth Care Plan, can help
you learn more about your healthcare and use of healthcare services:
1. Establish a relationship with a primary physician -- before you need one.
The more your doctor knows about you, the better care you are likely to
receive when you're ill. Be honest and thorough in talking with your
doctor about your health, your lifestyle and your personal and family
2. Ask questions.
You have the right to ask your doctor what a procedure involves, how
much it costs and if it's medically necessary. Ask whether equally
effective, less costly alternatives are available.
3. Learn how to practice self-care.
More than 80 percent of all health problems can be cared for in the
home. You should learn how to recognize common health problems, what to
do when they occur, when and where to seek appropriate help, and how to
prevent health problems from recurring.
4. Check your Provider Directory,
if you participate in a health maintenance organization, preferred
provider organization, etc. Make sure a provider to whom your physician
refers you participates in your health plan. It's a good idea to call
the provider's office for verification.
5. Know your prescriptions.
Make sure you tell your doctor and pharmacist about all drugs
prescribed to you, so they will know if a new drug may have possible
unfavorable interactions with those you are taking.
6. Use the emergency department for medical emergencies only.
Emergency department care is many times more costly than care provided
in a doctor's office. However, if you feel your health or life are in
jeopardy, you should go to an emergency department immediately.
7. Learn about your illness.
Ask your physician for information about special diets or physical
activities that would be helpful. If you are on medications, ask about
possible side effects.
8. Carefully read your Certificate of Coverage and Summary of Covered Benefits.
Know and understand your healthcare benefits. If you're not sure a
service or procedure is covered, refer to your benefits materials or
call member services.
9. Review bills carefully.
If you're in the hospital, have a friend or family member keep track of
your tests, medications and supplies you use — or do it yourself
if you feel up to it. After you leave the hospital, ask for an itemized
bill and compare the charges with your records.
10. Live a healthy lifestyle.
Eat a sensible diet; wear your seat belt; obtain recommended preventive
care; perform monthly breast or testicular self-exams; get enough
sleep; don't smoke; exercise at least three times a week; and, if you
drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.
Address: MetraHealth Care Plan, 4500 East Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach, CA 90804; (800) 875-4206.
Copyright 1999 Health Resources Publishing