Dealing with Complex Medical Issues? Some Tips to Keep it all Straight
If you’re dealing with two or more chronic medical conditions, you may feel as though you are constantly spending time in doctors’ offices, or wading through medical claims and paperwork. And if that’s how you feel, you’re not wrong, according to an article we just read on the Money website of US News & World Report.
The article is called “How to Save Time and Money Managing Multiple Doctor Visits.” You can click on this link to access the article, which includes several tips that we think you’ll find most helpful if you or a loved one are dealing with complex medical conditions involving multiple doctors and healthcare providers.
The article begins by quoting a study that tracked Medicare data for more than 20 years. This study revealed that people being treated for two or more chronic medical conditions spent an average of 33 days per year dealing with the health care system. For some beneficiaries the number of days spent managing their care was even higher, up to 45 days annually. That means seniors with multiple conditions spend the equivalent of between a month and six weeks per year managing their care. No wonder so many find the medical system exhausting, frustrating and confusing.
Until our American medical system is overhauled – something our politicians debate about endlessly – the odds are that those with complex conditions will still find their personal care management to be time-consuming. Nevertheless, says US News, there are several things you can do that can save you time and money – not to mention frustration – when it comes to managing your health care.
One excellent suggestion from the article is to have one main point of contact for all your medical needs. The study cited in the article shows that the average Medicare beneficiary sees between 3 and 4 different clinicians per year, and experience seems to show that those medical professionals often do not communicate with each other. Because the system is so fragmented, says US News, “it may be up to the patient to ensure physicians are kept in the loop.” The solution is to have one physician serve as your “quarterback” to manage all your care. He or she will receive copies of all the medical records from all the providers you’re seeing. If you decide to go this route, make certain the doctor you select knows his or her role.
We would add our own strong recommendation that you pick a geriatric specialist, or geriatrician, to serve in this capacity – someone who specializes in the health concerns of seniors. Contact our office here at AgingOptions and we will give you some suggested names of geriatricians in your area.
A few other ideas are also worth considering. One obvious way to keep things simpler is to try to consolidate doctor visits on the same day, especially if two or more providers are near each other. Also, whenever possible, pick providers in the same medical insurance network, something that not only should simplify paperwork but also make record sharing easier. And speaking of records, you might consider bringing a copy of your medical records and a list of all your medical contacts with you for every doctor visit. Electronic medical files are coming but are not yet universal, so having a copy in your possession can save you time and headaches.
One final idea is to enlist the services of an advocate – a trusted relative or friend who will assist you with your medical record keeping. There are professionals who offer this service for a fee, and in our experience they can be very helpful if you check them out beforehand. Some unscrupulous people will take advantage of you if you’re not careful. Have a family member with you when you interview any “senior helper” and be sure you check their references thoroughly.
If you will contact us here at AgingOptions we will provide you with more ideas on how to make medical “self-management” more manageable. We can also guide you into a comprehensive approach to all your retirement planning needs – medical coverage, legal protection, financial preparation, housing options and family dynamics. We call it LifePlanning, and there’s a free seminar coming to your area soon where you can learn more about this unique, powerful approach to planning your future. Click on the Upcoming Events tab on our website for all the details, plus free online registration.
Let us be your advocate and your information resource in your retirement years. It will be our privilege to serve you.
(originally reported at http://money.usnews.com)