What a difference it makes when a patient has “skin in the game!”

One of the most common question I hear from most patients is, “Does my insurance cover this?”

If a given medication or treatment is the best option for a given patient, why should insurance dictate whether they receive it or not? I realize health insurance has become the primary way people expect their health care to be paid for. But why should some group of number crunchers on the other side of the country decide what happens between me and the woman sitting in front of me? It’s just wrong!

It’s a very different experience for me and my patient when there is no middle-man. Just today a woman came to see me who desired some specific care that I was uniquely qualified to give her. It was one of the best doctor-patient interactions I’ve experienced. And here’s why:

This lady had already done a little research on her own. She had thought through the questions she needed to ask, and was ready to address the health issues she faced. She brought copies of her previous records – not volumes, but she had the important test results that truly were necessary. And she was willing to address how her home life, mental stress level, and physical symptoms might all be related, and take appropriate steps in all areas.

She also understood the cost of medical care. She had high-deductible health insurance and a health savings account. She pays for any care she receives up to about $10,000/year. That makes her very conscious of what medications, office visits, and treatments cost. She was more than willing and able to pay for the care she needed, but not for unnecessary tests. And in the unfortunate event she experiences a serious health event her insurance will take care of the costs.

Here’s a news flash: your doctor WANTS to help you. But so often restrictions and regulations beyond their control impact the care you receive. No, your job is not to make your doctor happy. But you will get much more from your healthcare if you see him or her as a partner. You’re on the same side!

Here’s what you can do that will truly make your doctor happy on the road to giving you excellent medical care:

  1. Become informed. You can’t know everything about your illness or treatment: that’s why you see the doctor! But thinking through the questions you need answered goes a long way toward making your doctor your partner in caring for your health.
  2. Guard your medical records. If you need to transfer care or see a new specialist, it saves so much time and stress to make sure appropriate records are forwarded, or bring them with you.
  3. Consider the cost. Healthcare is expensive, and cost should never be the primary consideration. But it’s always appropriate to consider whether the cost of a given test or treatment is worth the benefits.
  4. Don’t expect the doctor to fix you. Most of the time YOU are the one who will need to do the work to keep or make you healthy. Think of your doctor as your consultant: use their expertise to help you understand what YOU need to do in taking care of your health.

You’re paying good money (either directly or through your insurance) for your doctor’s expertise. Help him or her give you the best care they can.

Your turn: What “skin” do you have in the healthcare game? What does it mean to you to have your doctor as a partner? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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