Think about the last time you made a big purchase, say $1,000 or more. Did you go out and buy the first thing you saw? Take one recommendation from somebody? Or did you research it, learn some things, compare it to other options, and select something that was right for you? Most people tend to be educated and research large purchases like cars, televisions, or the newest iPhone. So why do we so often neglect to do this with healthcare?
By becoming more educated healthcare consumers we can go from being passive patients who take the first recommendation that comes from a practitioner, to an active consumer who weighs options and makes choices. Here are some questions to talk through with your practitioner the next time a healthcare decision comes up.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OR EXPECTED RESULTS?
When a treatment or procedure is recommended, the patient often assumes that it will make them "better." But what the patient expects and what the healthcare professional expects are often two different things. Engage with your practitioner and candidly share the benefits and results you are expecting and ask for your practitioner to openly share his or her expectations for your results.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS AND DOWNSIDES?
Patients want to hear about the benefits of a treatment, but they often don't ask or care about the risks. To be an educated consumer, you need to. If one treatment has a 3% edge over another, but has a high risk of causing new issues, do you want it? The risks of one treatment versus another need to be compared.
WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES?
Don't feel bad asking about alternative treatments. If you were looking at a new (or used) car you wouldn't go out and just buy it. You'd at least consider all options and probably even test drive them. You should at least look at the other options in healthcare too. Maybe the first recommendation that your practitioner makes is the right one for you, but if you don't consider the alternatives you'll never really know.
WHY THIS TREATMENT OVER THE OTHER ONES?
This is the question where the rubber meets the road. You've learned about all the options, now you can see if your practitioner is balancing the risks and benefits to make the right choice for you. By asking for the rationale and carefully weighing options, you can avoid being one of the people who gets an ineffective treatment.
WHAT'S IT COST?
This last question is becoming more important as patients bear an increasing share of the cost of healthcare. Even if you don't have a high deductible plan or pay hefty co-pays, by being financially responsible today, you'll probably see smaller price increases in your premiums down the road.
A PLUG FOR PHYSICAL THERAPY
With all that is going on in our world right now and with healthcare concerns being in the forefront of all news stories, you can see how these questions can apply to any type of healthcare concern you might have. As an example, in the Physical & Occupational therapy field, an educated consumer would learn that physical therapy is often a viable alternative to surgery with comparable outcomes, much less risk and lower cost. In fact, a large study of 122,723 subjects showed that people with back pain who got physical therapy in the first 14 days lowered their healthcare costs by 60%.
GET INVOLVED & GET EDUCATED
Though it is easy to become a passive patient, we know that the healthiest patients are those that get involved and get educated. Because, as we ALWAYS say, when you take care of your body, it takes care of you!