Mission Statement

My mission although I didn't sign up for, is to endure all those crazy incidents you hear about from friends and coworkers. You know, those ones about the person who spent 15 hours in the waiting room at some hospital emergency ward. Or, even better, the one where this person sold health care policies only to find themself fighting for their life with the healthcare company just months before had been singing their praises. How's that for irony. Well, we all know the sob stories. I'll try to keep those to a minimum, and only when absolutely necessary for a point, but this is about all those crazy inconveniences that the healthcare industry as a whole puts the average person though on a daily, no hourly, basis, without thought, care or much consideration whatsoever. It's shameful. Why is my time and effort worth so little, especially when I'm paying you to provide a service to me. Why then is it necessary to fight tooth and nail just to get what I paid for? Is anybody listening? Well I certainly am listening, and screaming at the top of my lungs to anyone who'll listen to me. We need a grass roots campaign started like yesterday. We need someone whose on our side of the argument for once. Help out with your own stories and comments. Or, just try to keep me from going to far up on my soapbox. I truly hope I can help someone, open people's eyes to the craziness, and maybe make some small change in how heathcare treats us!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Getting the initial appointment with your Primary Care Physician (PCP)

Scheduling that first appointment can be tough.  The important thing is to be prepared.  First off, Doctor's don't like doing new patient appointments.  They're tedious and take up more time than a regular appointment.  So, knowing that can help with the giant headache you'll have once you're done.

Second, come prepared.You'll usually be required to fill out roughly 10 or so pages of information.  Family history, current medical conditions, current medications, and  so on.  Save yourself some time and the hassle.  When scheduling the appointment, request all forms that need to be completed are either mailed, faxed, or picked-up by you ahead of time.  That way you can take your time and complete all the forms without distractions from annoying kids in the waiting room, or without having to remember when you had that last physical, the exact dosage of your cholesterol medications, or the name and address of the last doctor you saw some six months ago.  Then return them to the office staff as soon as possible for review.  This way, once you've arrived for your appointment, usually 6-8 weeks later, they already have all the information and may possibly have requested copies of medical records from your previous Primary Care Physician, plus copies of recent lab results, x-rays, etc.  Who knows, the new Doctor may have even found time to read through your paperwork and be somewhat familiar with you and your current health status.

Once you actually are in the exam room or office, you'll begin to feel as though you're experiencing "job interview, DE ja' vue."  Relax, you are the one whose interviewing here.  Don't forget, you pay for the services they provide, so let them impress you a little.

Do some homework ahead of time.  Check out pricing for cash customers as a way to comparison shop.  Ask for referrals.  Let them know you are checking into other Primary's, and that you haven't made a final decision yet.  After all, they're not the only Doctor in town -- probably not the only one in the same building.

Try to be specific about the kind of PCP you want.  Make a list of questions and concerns regarding your 
health care.   Don't generalize.  If you have diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, then ask questions specific to care and maintenance for those conditions,  plus any other family history health concerns you worry may arise.  Use the Internet to help you understand your health conditions, risk factors, and family history.  They all play a part in your overall health care plan.  Find out what specific needs or concerns you should discuss with your PCP.

My health is the culmination of my life so far:  the injuries, surgeries, illnesses, allergies, and family members health conditions, plus my current medical conditions.  They all add together uniquely for me.  Same for everyone else.  There are a myriad of health issues and risk factors to cover with your PCP on this visit.  Let the physical wait until another visit.

Last, but not least, ask what Specialists this PCP uses for conditions related to your medical care.  For instance, if you have a chronic pain condition, what Pain Management Specialist do they usually refer to, does make a difference.  Also, what laboratories and radiological groups they use, can be a factor in to consider.  Although, most times this is controlled by either the insurance company or the Physician's group that the Doctor is affiliated with, so your choices may be limited, here.

It may become a choice between a better PCP and not the Specialist of your dreams, or the Specialist that you really want, but less choices when it comes to PCP's.  Remember, Primary Care Physicians are just that, your primary contact for medical care.  I find most Specialists are equally good, however, if not you can always request that they be added to your PCP's group later on.  The important thing is to find someone who understands your medical needs and respects your input on how treatment is administered.  find that combination and the majority of your battles are behind you.

Once you've survived all that, I've found most Doctor's are very similar.  There are few differences in real care or how they administer the care with their patients.  Some have better personalities, while others have kinder, gentler bedside manners,  yet in the end, they all march to the same drum.  The HMO's and PPO's and the Physician's Groups pretty much tell them how to act/react in any given situation.  They primarily diagnose,  then prescribe medications, with instructions to follow up in 6-8 weeks, unless symptoms worsen, then call for an immediate appointment or go to the nearest Emergency Room.

After all is said and done, you'll have to decide whether to stay with this PCP, or move on to another.  If you've done all the prep work, the choice should be easy.    But remember, you can change Doctor's if you feel the standard of care doesn't meet your expectations.  Some insurance companies do have restrictions on when and how often you can change PCP's specifically, so read your policy benefits or contact your insurance company.

Get the most out of your appointment by being as prepared as possible.  Even though you are paying the bill in the end, do strive to be respectful.  We all, after everything, deserve the minimum amount of courtesy.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Why I began this quest.

My mission, while I didn't choose it, is to educate, assist, and gather together the masses to fix the problems in getting reasonable medical care.  Notice I said reasonable.  I'm not one of those people demanding free coverage of 100% of anything considered to be medical care, or it's equivalent opponents.  I just want the things I was promised when I purchased my health care insurance policy.  Those things inherently promised under the Hippocratic oath, by doctors.  And, all the other health care providers, whom are so well paid, in high demand, yet somehow forget how to treat human beings; that is other than cattle being herded from one pasture to the next.  Of course, we refer to them as waiting rooms even though we know better.  And, waiting implies that at some point it will end, and some service will be given or performed.  I have spent less time waiting  for major auto repairs than waiting at my doctor's office, where I actually have a scheduled appointment time.  Again, there is that translation issue.  Appointment time usually means in health care terms:  this is an approximate time for you to arrive, and we'll get to you within the next four (4) hour window, unless, of course, there is an emergency.  Like the doctor wants to eat his lunch at some fancy restaurant on some prescription companies dime, or that he's tired and needs to rest before his afternoon golf game, or whatever else it is they do in their spare time.  Now to be fair, I have met several doctors, usually P.A.'s  (Physician's assistants) who work tirelessly 18 plus hours each day trying to fill the holes in the health care system.  But they are too few and very far between,  while being worked to their early death by bureaucracy.

So, while you're doing all this waiting, look around you and you'll realize how well things are going for our doctor friends.  I've never seen such plush furnishings, granite floors and counters, wall-tiled granite bathrooms, all with accessories even Martha  would be proud of.  So, now we know, it's not really a money problem as they would have us believe.  With their one of a kind cascading waterfall behind the reception desk, I don't think they're even trying to fool anyone anymore.

Then why bother?  Why bother fighting against the tide for someone else's rights and problems?  Truthfully.  Someday soon these same problems and rights being denied and trampled upon will belong to you or someone very close to you, like a family member, a parent, grandparent, siblings, or just close friends.  That's when the most unfortunate part begins.  A sick, unwell, possibly dying person fighting against a well-oiled system, alone.  Weak and defenseless, they are about to embark on the fastest learning curve ever achieved.  How to fight the health care system.  In plain English, the patient gets the shaft both physically and monetarily.
Don't think for one second those doctors and other health care providers are going to care what's going on with you or your problems.  Payment is due, in full, at the time service is rendered.  Pay now and fight it out with the bureaucrats, your insurance company, and whoever else later.  They just don't care, other than getting paid on time, by you.  Ultimately you are responsible for all bills, no matter whether they should be covered or not.  They all stand squarely on: " It's not our problem (even if we do contribute to it).  You are on your own."

Except now, I'm here.  I've experienced a lot of woe and heartache and sleeplessness over the deviousness and underhanded standard tactics employed when someone actually is sick and needs their health insurance the most.  Simple put, they don't want to pay.    So send me your stories, your frustrations and all those horrors you've endured.  Maybe together, and with others like us we can find a way to fight back against the system and create a grass roots campaign to change the way we are treated and without any voice in making any real change to how the system processes and denies claims.