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How to Be a Wise Healthcare Consumer

Every healthcare provider visit or medicine 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 healthcare consumer, and some tips for how to respond:

  • The treatment your healthcare 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 provider needs to know. Ask them to explain the treatment directions. Or have them suggest other treatment options.

  • The side effects are worse than you expected. Are you worried about the impact of medicine side effects on your health or well-being? Are you cutting back on your prescription because of side effects? Again, let your healthcare 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 charged 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. And ads can't always be trusted. Talk with your healthcare provider before you buy.

  • You’re not satisfied with your healthcare provider. If you don’t believe your provider knows enough about your condition, think about finding someone else. You deserve a provider who explains things in a language you understand, listens and encourages questions, and supports you in managing your condition.

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

  • 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 reputable nonprofit group, such as the American Cancer Society or the American Heart Association. Go to respected online sites. Ask your healthcare provider for brochures.

  • You know you should quit smoking, eat better, and exercise. But it’s just not happening. Do you need more support in making lifestyle changes? Talk with your 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 healthcare provider’s advice is important as a wise healthcare consumer.