Information regarding all types of products and services is simply available. While consumers can easily research all purchases, being a smart healthcare consumer is a much more challenging task. However, more transparency in the pricing and quality of healthcare in St. Louis or Kansas City is emerging, especially as consumers are forced to pay increasing deductibles and copays. So, how can one become a smarter health consumer, choosing doctors and facilities that provide value? Following are a few tips.
- Choose the right doctor: Find a primary care doctor with both your physical and fiscal health in mind. Independent doctors not employed by hospitals tend to be a better value, since they are not beholden to a hospital employer to generate revenue. Studies and research show that independent doctors refer patients to less costly providers for tests and procedures and other specialists.
- Choosing where to go for care can make a big difference
- Your doctor’s office – Since he/she is familiar with your medical status, seeing your primary care doctor is often a good first step. Your doctor may direct you to an independent specialist for an expert opinion with value in mind.
- Convenience Care – These walk-in providers are typically associated with drug stores and treat basic illnesses and injuries, like a sore throat or minor cut. They are usually staffed by nurse practitioners.
- Urgent Care- Next level up from convenience care, but more costly. They handle strains, sprains, small cuts that need stitches, headaches, burns.
- Emergency Room – For serious health events, such as heavy bleeding sudden changes in vision, chest pain, sudden weakness or trouble talking, major burns, sever injury or difficulty breathing.
- Purchasing Prescriptions.
- Be sure to ask your doctor about options, such as over-the-counter medications.
- Ask if generic drugs are available.
- Take medications as directed.
- Ask your doctor the right questions.
- What is the medication, test or treatment you are recommending?
- Why do I need it?
- What are the benefits and risks?
- Are there less expensive alternatives?
- Are you an independent doctor? Learn more about why to ask this question from our blog on independent physicians.
Who actually pays for your healthcare? While you may pay a deductible or copay, in many cases your employer picks up the majority of the tab. While the excess on and above your out-of-pocket cost may seem free, it’s an expense paid by your employer. Being careful in your use of healthcare can reduce your employer’s healthcare expenses, another way to be a wise healthcare consumer.