These days the medical system can seem like a confusing, complicated system to navigate. High volumes of patients, long hours for practitioners and the need to communicate across numerous different types of healthcare providers can make things difficult for not only you as a patient, but also for medical professionals.
According to a 2016 analysis published by the BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal), if “medical error” was classified as a disease, it would rank as the third leading cause of death in the US!! (Source)
What does this mean? It means our medical professionals are human and sometimes make mistakes. OF COURSE listen to your doctor, but you also need to be your own informed health advocate. On top of that, those who code medical bills can and sometimes do make mistakes that can be the difference between having a procedure covered or not and obtaining government reimbursement for some services.
Let’s talk about steps you can take to protect yourself from potential medical error…
1. Ask Questions
Be prepared when meeting with your doctor. What are the benefits of a suggested procedure or course of treatment? What are the side effects of drugs your being prescribed? Are there other options available? Why are we deciding to take this course over others? Bring a list of questions!
Ask “What does that mean?” Doctors are often forced, by the system and patient-load, to be efficient…be prepared with your questions to get them all answered in order of priority because you likely only have a short time with your doctor face-to-face.
2. Do your research
Although you must carefully navigate to reputable websites, the internet can be a wealth of information. If you find something that might be helpful, or a concern, print it off and bring it to your doctor.
3. Maintain your own records
Navigating through the health system and referrals can bring along with it a level of complication in having your records transferred. Maintain a copy of your own records just in case! Many hospital systems now have apps that hold your medical information, billing, and more. Apple products now even have a health app to assist.
4. Review your medical bills for errors
In the end, bills are based off of coding which are entered by humans. Humans can make mistakes. Double-check all of your bills especially if you are a self-pay claim. Insurance companies often have staff that review all bills but mistakes can still happen there too.
Be your own advocate and take your health, and billing, into your own hands or get professional assistance in complicated cases if necessary.
5. Advocacy services
Insurance can be confusing, to say the least. Insurance companies offer health advocates to help navigate their services but their responsibility is still to the bottom line of the insurance company.
For serious events and concerns, consider seeking out a private healthcare advocate which has responsibility to YOUR bottom line and will help manage your health needs. There is a cost to a private advocate, of course, but they can assist with things from scheduling and attending doctor’s appointments with you, to researching medical treatments and handling insurance claims.
6. Get a second opinion
“C’s get degrees”…Like any profession, not all professionals are created equal. When in doubt with your doctor’s prognosis, seek out a second opinion. We put our faith in our doctors, but just like anybody, sometimes even they get it wrong.