(BPT) – While the future of health care is still undetermined, one thing is certain: It’s important for consumers to take steps to educate themselves about their health and well-being and become active participants in their plan of care. However, it can feel overwhelming to a patient to make complicated decisions that can impact their health (and finances) in the short and long term.
Rather than relying on health care providers or insurance companies, patients can take ownership of their own health care management. AAAHC, which works with health care providers to optimize patient safety and quality of care, offers four tips to help you become a more confident, empowered patient:
1. Make the Most of Your (Face) Time
With the advancement of health care technology and digital requirements, many doctors find themselves spending more of their time in front of a computer screen, with one study revealing doctors can spend less than one-third of their time with patients.
Health care professionals are, however, transitioning towards a more patient-centered approach to care that focuses on enhancing the holistic experience and needs of each patient. To make each interaction more meaningful, health care providers should discuss your medical history, lifestyle choices and other behaviors to get a better idea of how to tailor recommendations and treatments that support overall wellness.
“Remember to always be open and honest with your doctor, and come with a list of questions,” said Mona Sweeney, RN, of AAAHC Accreditation Services. “Having a list prepared helps you stay focused on getting the information you want, and taking notes will keep new information organized for reference later. If you’ve received a diagnosis that leads to a discussion of treatment options, it also can be helpful to have someone with you as a second set of ears. It’s hard to remember all you’ve been told if you’re under stress.”
2. Know Your Risks, Options and Personal Data
Many patients do not realize it is the health care provider’s responsibility to disclose important details of any treatment plan — including potential benefits, risks and alternative options — and confirm patient understanding prior to moving forward with care. This ensures patients are able to ask questions and make informed decisions. Remember, you are the driver of your care.
“Because patient-centered health care providers want patients to play a bigger role in their health and wellness, many are providing access to information and opening up new channels of communication,” said Sweeney. “These resources help patients develop stronger relationships with providers and have a better understanding of their care.”
One way providers are achieving this is with patient engagement tools, which connect people to their personal health records and educational resources and facilitate communication with health care professionals. Ask about access to wearable health trackers, online patient portals, telemedicine channels and social media apps to learn what is available from your provider.
3. Go Through the Dollars and Cents
Once you are familiar with the medicine side, you can tackle the costs — which can be tricky. It is well within your rights as a patient to ask for your treatment costs upfront. This will allow you more time to review the price and ask questions before committing to any specific treatment or approach to care, or have a point of reference when reviewing the bill after treatment.
A survey from one payment and claims company, Navicure, found 75 percent of health care providers offer cost estimates upon request, but less than 25 percent of patients request them. You should feel comfortable discussing any concerns, including your bill or the cost of each treatment option, with your provider team.
4. Make Your Voice Heard
Helping patients become more engaged in their health care will benefit both patients and providers. Health care organizations seek feedback from patients to learn how to enhance the patient experience — which in turn will help them improve the quality of care they deliver.
“Most providers have some formal means of asking for feedback via a survey or customer service portal. Most negative patient experience issues are not the result of poor care, but of poor communications. Be authentic when providing feedback; it’s the only way a health care team can know where they need to improve,” said Sweeney.
For more information on standards for safety and quality that your health care provider must follow in order to earn accreditation, visit www.aaahc.org.