Want better health care? Be pushy.

  • Article by: CHARLES J. FAZIO
  • Updated: July 23, 2013 - 8:57 PM

We must get over the habit of just accepting what we’re given.

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myob_STJul. 23, 1310:12 PM

Excellent article! Wonderful! My late mother had a bone scan a week before she died, and her oncologist went out of town. We laid claim to the disk (she paid for it, so it belonged to her), and we popped it in our computer and read the thing ourselves. We knew what trouble she was in FIVE DAYS before the doctor returned to tell us what we already knew. Speak up! It's your body, your insurance, and your money.

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luzhishenJul. 23, 1311:04 PM

If you listen, you notice that the loudest voices in health care are those of doctors, hospitals, insurers and the government. " - Did the author forget the companies hawking their pills and devices via advertising? "Ask your doctor if Placebin is right for you (and only $700 a dose until the generic comes along)."

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mdachsJul. 23, 1311:41 PM

A great article! But I would take the idea of "acting like a customer" one step further!! The patient should act like a boss, not a consumer or customer. After all, the patient, in one way, shape, or form, pays the bill and pays for the physician's services, laboratory services, etc. The patient makes the decision about what provider to use, evaluates the provider's performance, and buys the services. When I don't receive the services and quality I expect from my internet provider, repairmen, accountants, lawyers, etc., I keep on pushing - and threaten to take my business elsewhere, not pay the bill, or both, if I do not receive the service, responsiveness, and quality I expect. And I don't back down - if I hit a wall with my first contact, I escalate it to the person's supervisor. And then again to the supervisor's supervisor. An so on. And, oh by the way, remember that 50% of all physicians, technicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers graduate in the lower half of their student classes. They are not gods. Their performance is on a normal bell curve. A small number are great, a small number are poor, and the rest are somewhere in between. Just like any other group of professionals.

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crystalbayJul. 24, 13 1:14 AM

Three years ago, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 esophageal cancer. Throughout weeks of chemo/radiation and a 9-hour surgery, I researched every single site, every article, and constantly questioned my care. I also joined three esophageal support groups. The cancer center staff knew me by voice recognition and my oncologist quickly learned to call me the same day after each consecutive PET scan rather than make me wait for the two days for our follow-up appointment. My million questions may have saved my life. My research to find the thoracic surgeon who'd done the most esophagectomies a year and discovery of a more definitive test only offered at Mayo also provided the best chance of survival. Mistakes were made; I caught every one of them and advocated for myself. More than one doctor apologized for these. Being assertive, being intensely curious about your diagnosis; asking questions relentlessly also helps immensely to distract yourself from the anxiety about a serious condition. All my time and energy went into exploring this cancer rather than fear or depression. I also kept dancing every week end with a picc line in my arm attached to a chemo pump! Approaching serious illness with humor, gusto, and - above all else -curiosity makes it a challenging adventure. I cannot stress self-advocacy enough and believe that most doctors respond enthusiastically to patients who are particularly active in their care.

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goldengoph3rJul. 24, 13 2:22 AM

I believe it would be a tremendous boon for consumers if health care providers offered price lists. Perhaps this sounds dumb, and such a move might require a mental adjustment for American consumers, but when I read that providers are charging outrageous amounts for things like Tylenol, shedding some light on the pricing process sounds like a step in the right direction.

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comment229Jul. 24, 13 4:53 AM

Ok... got it. But in reality, you are talking to people with affordable group health care who find something suspicious and run to their doctor. Want to know how many people with catastrophic insurance, which is all they can afford, feel about possible problems and preventative medicine? When you have an answer for that, then write a column about that. Bet I don't see that any time soon. You have the "Dr. Nancy Snyderman" syndrome. She insists that everyone have this test done at this age. How exciting for her! Now, try the real world. I am sure this doctor does a fine/excellent job at what he does. The problem is, there is a large segment of our society that would never ever get to see this doctor or in many cases, any doctor until the worst is upon us. I recently listened to a panel of three doctors discussing the health care issues, and two were in their own little worlds saying their goal was to get all Americans into preventative programs reducing costs in the end. One doctor told them bluntly, that there is a huge group of self insured in our society that will never ever be able to afford preventative services. What's that you say? It's now free? Nope, not if you have an existing policy that has been "grandfathered" in. Ask your BCBS agent. Enough... I am sure this doctor doesn't want to hear the other side of the story.

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bigbadbeanJul. 24, 13 6:26 AM

"We must get over the habit of just accepting what we’re given." - When the government starts deciding what you will or will not get you have no options. Welcome to ObamaCare!

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dburrisbrownJul. 24, 13 6:35 AM

Easier said than done. When you are sick and have little energy--you are not going to cancel your appt. and go home to look for other options that will deliver same day results and check to see if this option is covered by your insurance. A patient may not even know what to expect especially around a potentially new diagnosis. It is hard to know what questions to ask to ensure one's needs are met. Sure, it is more and more important to be proactive about one's health, but not everyone has the inside knowledge and savvy that this author has.

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Packman_1Jul. 24, 13 6:52 AM

Agree 100% with comment229. I'm sure this physician means well, but could he please explain how, with my catastophic only insurance, I can shop around and compare services and prices? Maybe he has some solution for the 50 million Americans who have no coverage at all....

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pumiceJul. 24, 13 8:39 AM

Re: "The patient should act like a boss, not a consumer or customer." I prefer the informed consumer/customer model, mdachs. A wise consumer doesn't self-diagnose and bossily demand some miracle medication s/he's seen advertised or bossily demand antibiotics for every flu-like symptom or bossily demand unnecessary screenings. Or refuse to exercise or go on a diet because "I'm the boss!"

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