In this medical climate, it is becoming harder and harder to navigate your healthcare so I wanted to share some tips that may make it more productive for you.
Read on for eight tips of making the most of any healthcare visit from labs to insurance to your office visit itself….
Start your doctor visit with your most important issue. We all want to be heard so help us by staying focused on your issue. The average surgeon listens for the first minute, internal medicine for three minutes and family practice might make it to five. Obviously there are exceptions to this but the take home message for you is if you have something important going on you better lead with it! If you have multiple symptoms then start with (for example) ..when I have a flare I have nausea, headaches, joint pain, stomach aches, etc. You have just now made this one problem with multiple symptoms. If you have had long standing symptoms start with the symptom first and then reference the time range. For example, I am here because I am having severe headaches. They are located on the right side and started one year ago but are getting worse. I’ve had headaches since I was twelve but these are different. If you start with “ I’ve had headaches since I was twelve and I was started on medication then and they got better. They returned in college because I thought I was studying too hard. Then I had kids and the headaches got worse but that was ten years ago….”. By the time you get to describing what your headaches are doing today you may have lost your listener. All of the prior information is important but don’t lead with it.
Know which laboratory is in network with your insurance. This will save you lots of money in the long run. Physicians offices used to be able to guide you based on your policy but now just because you have a major carrier we are seeing different requirements based on your specific policy and we have no idea which lab is in network.
Understand your specific offices’ policies. Most offices will have a 48 hour refill request so plan ahead. In a perfect world, nurses would return phone calls the day of your call but most offices have a 24-48 hour return phone call policy.
Referrals to specialty services often take weeks to process with other physicians. If you have not heard from that office then call who referred you and make sure the referral was made. One of our most frustrating and time consuming jobs for physician offices is making sure the other offices have received your paperwork and have you on their radar. We have no control of when they call you so all we can do is try and reach out again to make sure they haven’t lost your paperwork.
The person answering the phone is typically the equivalent of a switchboard operator. Tell them exactly what you want to do: schedule an appointment, have a problem and need to speak to the nurse, need a refill, etc. If that office is set up differently they will ask you more in depth questions. If you have an urgent issue start out with telling them this is urgent. Keep in mind, your poor planning does not qualify as an urgent issue in a medical office because there are plenty of cases that are life and death urgent. These will always take priority.
Even though we may know and love you as a patient we may not remember all of your medical history. Yes, it is in our notes but with electronic medical records it has made it even more difficult to keep track because phone calls, messages, prescriptions and appointments all come in different ways to the charts. In order to see them we have to click and open each one of these categories so help us out and remind us of key and pertinent information.
If you are taking numerous medications and supplements, bring an updated list so we can get through that information quickly so we can focus on the present issue.
Be your own advocate. Ask for copies of test results so you can see them yourself. Trust your own intuition so if you really want something evaluated speak up.
I know you are thinking that you wish there were tips that you could share with your physicians! All I can do is speak for my office. I have very high expectations of my staff and created my office model on how I would want to be treated. However, sometimes we fall short and we need to know when we do!
Here is our pledge to you…
1. We will try to run on time. I am super type A about this but even with me being very cognizant of time sometimes things just happen. Just know that I am truly trying. I respect your time so being on time to your in office appointments helps keep everything running smoothly. Our 15 minute phone call appointments are geared for quick lab reviews or very targeted troubleshooting. If you are having significant issues please request a thirty minute appointment so we have enough time.
2. We try to return all phone calls within 24 business hours. We do have occasional phone message glitches so if you haven’t heard from us then please call us back.
3. We aim to fill any refill requests within 48 business hours. If it a simple refill call your pharmacy and request a refill that way. Large pharmacies often take 48 hours to send us a refill request so plan accordingly. If you do call us give us the name of medication, dose, quantity preferred, and the pharmacy name and location. This helps expedite your request.
4. Our referrals to other physicians and services go out within 24 hours (usually same day). If you haven’t heard from the respective referral in one week call Dulcey and let her know.
5. Online new patient requests. We try to process these and reach out within 48 business hours. If you are having an urgent problem please go to your local urgent care as we are often booking a minimum of four weeks in advance.
6. If we are supposed to call you with pending lab results and you have not heard from us within a week of that blood draw please call us. We will always call you or email you regardless of the result. No news from us means it didn’t enter our system and we have no idea that you went and had the lab drawn. This happens with many other draw sights so be sure and let us know.
7. If there is a mistake or if you feel something wasn’t handled correctly, we want to know. We are truly here to help you.
8. We will do our best to be your advocate in getting labs and medications covered by insurance. We do not have control over your insurance reimbursement for labs and appointments. We do our best to help provide appropriate codes but insurance is getting more and more difficult to deal with. Drugs are being denied even with us giving extra information to justify them. Labs are denied often and we are always trying to help you by resubmitting codes. That being said, your insurance may not cover all tests regardless of what we do or say. This is an ever changing climate. Labs that used to be covered are now being denied without any prior warning.
9. We provide cash based labs if you have a high deductible or no insurance. Remind us if you prefer this option or require a specific lab. We do our best to mark your lab choice in our system but there is not a place in our electronic medical records that makes this information easy to access so please tell us every lab draw.
Our number one goal is to provide excellent care and service. I hope you can feel the difference when you interact with our office!
To your health,