Medicine

You MUST Be Your Own Healthcare Advocate: Here’s Why…

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.

Multivitamins have NO effect on Heart Disease, Cancer or overall Mortality??

According to the medical journal “Annals of Internal Medicine”, there is no evidence that multivitamins have any effect on cognitive decline, heart disease, cancer, or overall mortality. Wait what??

However, adequate intake of vitamins/minerals from food and/or supplements IS necessary to prevent deficiency, promote optimal health, improve nutrient partitioning and promote fat loss and muscle gain.

Ditch The Multivitamin or Not??

Ideally, just supplement the specific nutrients you are deficient in. Avoid supratherapeutic doses of vitamins – doses greatly in excess of recommendations. And know what you are working with: low-fat diets for instance can inhibit adequate absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. Perhaps your diet just needs a little tweaking; all of your vitamin and mineral requirements CAN and arguable SHOULD BE met from actual food intake by eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.

If you struggle with medical ailments, check with your healthcare provider to see if specific vitamins or nutrients may need to be supplemented.

Taste The Rainbow!

…can we say that?

Vitamins are “any of a group of organic compounds that are essential for normal growth and nutrition and are required in small quantities in the diet because they cannot be synthesized by the body.”

We have overwhelming access to a variety of fruits and vegetables all year round, and there truly is no reason outside of a medical complication or deficiency that one should require a daily multivitamin.

If you use a vitamin/mineral supplement, look for one providing nutrients derived from whole foods. Be sure this includes natural forms of vitamin E rather than the synthetic versions. Vitamin A should come from precursors like carotenoids and not preformed retinoids for instance. Labdoor.com is an independent company that creates a quality score for label accuracy, product purity, nutritional value, ingredient safety, and projected efficacy!

**Check with your healthcare provider as special populations often need special consideration with supplemental vitamins. Those on blood thinners need to take precaution before adding in supplemental vitamin K. Those on a plant based diet might benefit from supplementing with iodine, vitamin D and vitamin B12. Those suffering from malabsorption syndromes will need to adjust their micronutrient intake accordingly. Always check with your healthcare provider before supplementing your diet.**

Vitamin D: The not-really-a-vitamin Vitamin

“Vitamin D” is actually the one vitamin your body is capable of synthesizing on it’s own! All you need is sunlight. Because of this you may meet your requirements for this vitamin with no effort at all in the Summer, but come Winter you may be totally deficient! (Especially for those of us in the North experiencing extended periods of below freezing temperatures and reduced daylight hours).

Getting adequate vitamin D can improve mood AND provide long-term protection against cognitive decline and bone deterioration. Many studies show that deficiency in vitamin D is also associated with increased susceptibility to infection and immune dysfunction!

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166406/