Autumn is here, meaning it’s time for some of the most unpredictable weather of the year in Wisconsin. Like the weather, our healthcare system is also complex and unpredictable.
This makes it hard for patients to be prepared to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. Thankfully, improved tools and patient resources are now available that make it easier to prepare for treatment and can lead to lower cost, higher quality healthcare.
There are three main players within our healthcare system, each with their own interests. At the top, hospital administrators are mainly concerned with keeping their facilities operating smoothly and efficiently. Physicians’ chief concern is their patients’ safety and well-being. As the largest and most important group, patients want high-quality healthcare services for the lowest possible price.
In this environment, healthcare executives are focused on the bottom line and may push providers to create more revenue in less time. This could consequently mean less time for the patient than the provider would like. As a result, patients may feel under-satisfied and frustrated with their overworked physician.
Despite these challenges, patients rightfully rely on their physician for medical knowledge and guidance. However, it is important that they can advocate on their own behalf as well.
A well-informed patient asks more relevant medical questions. They can also skip pricing or insurance questions that their provider may not be able to answer. This therefore leads to higher patient satisfaction, less frustration for the provider, and more productive visits for both parties. The time has come for patients to effectively advocate for themselves within our confusing medical bureaucracy.
Cost estimator tools are one valuable resource. For example, Fair Health Consumer’s cost-estimator tool compares the cost of low- and high-risk procedures and associated care according to insurance coverage and location. The tool is sophisticated and specific, yet very easy to use.
In addition, many insurance providers now offer their own cost-estimator tools. Anthem, for instance, recently made huge improvements to their comprehensive estimator and search tools. Other carriers are making similar tools equally accessible to members in response to demand. In short, cost-comparing in an era of extreme price variation for common procedures could mean not receiving that surprise bill in the mail.
When you or a loved one is faced with a more serious diagnosis or emergency, quality of care becomes even more important than cost. One valuable resource for provider quality is US News & World Report’s “Find the Best Doctors” tool.
The tool offers extensive information on individual providers, including patient experience ratings on topics such as the amount of time spent with a patient and clarity of the instructions provided.
For our part, Mueller QAAS seeks to advocate for clients searching for value-driven, cost effective healthcare plans. We also encourage our employer clients to educate their employees on accessing resources that can better inform their healthcare decisions. Taking advantage of every resource available and empowerment towards self-advocacy is a necessary step down the path towards better – and more valuable – healthcare.