Be Your Own Patient Advocate Before Surgery

When planning for surgery it is useful to learn the art of being your own patient advocate. Today’s health and wellness industry has made it easy for us to obtain information to ensure we receive quality care. When we do our own thorough research ahead of time we can feel confident about having a positive surgery outcome.

How to be a patient advocate in navigating health insurance:

It is important to have a full understanding of your health insurance plan. Here are some of the things I learned this past year:

· When in need of a new insurance plan seek out a local insurance broker to help sort out the best plan for your specific needs. Free of charge, they help us attain emotional health about the coverage we choose. These agents know which plans do not raise their rates yearly, which ones are most appropriate to choose with pre-existing conditions, and which plans will be available long-term.

· Whenever you receive a new insurance plan you need to become your own patient advocate by reading through the policy right away. This will inform you if they have placed any restrictions on covering any of your current medical conditions. You do have 30 days to cancel the plan if you find the policy unacceptable.

· If a situation presents where you are not able to pay your medical bill you can make alternative payment arrangements. Those with financial hardships are able to reduce their hospital fees or perhaps waive them entirely.

How to be your own patient advocate for medical visits:

· The health and wellness industry has been great at educating us how to prepare ahead of time for a medical visit. Most of us have already experienced the value of writing down our questions before the visit. To optimize your limited time with the doctor I advise asking your practitioner only those questions they themselves can answer. As my own patient advocate I have learned to query other staff with the remainder of my questions. For example:

1. Direct inquiries about pre-post surgery issues to the surgery scheduler.

2. Ask the front desk staff how to obtain the morbidity & mortality statistics for the doctor and hospital.

· The health and wellness industry has encouraged us to have a trusted person with us during the medical visit. When another is present it allows them to become your patient advocate. I have found their presence vital since way too often my trusted friend brings up issues I failed to mention. It helps me take care of my emotional health when the trusted person is my scribe and documents the doctor’s comments.

· When you need a physician to submit a form (or write a letter) on your behalf it is best to prepare ahead of time. Here are a few examples:

1. When requesting a temporary handicapped parking permit find out ahead of time if the DMV requires you to download their form. If not, draft a letter with your request for the doctor to sign.

2. Whenever you need the doctor to write a letter confirming a medical condition it is best to become proactive as your own patient advocate. Arrive at the medical visit with a sample letter which includes all the pertinent information so you leave with it in-hand.

3. When you need a medical test ordered at another facility come prepared with the name of the facility and FAX number where the request can be sent.

When you follow these guidelines chances are greater you will leave the visit with total confidence that your needs are being handled.

How to be your own patient advocate before and after surgery:

· Know that you can request an early morning surgery when necessary. In taking care of your health and wellness inform the surgery scheduler of needs for early morning surgery if you have health issues that would be compromised when pre-surgery requirements forbid the intake of food or water. Prior to surgery it is best to take care of your emotional health and speed up the time your body is without nourishment.

· It is desirable to have a trusted friend stay in your hospital room overnight. If something unusual presents they can be of immediate value. Today hospitals have a chair that folds down into a bed for these specific purposes.

How to be your own patient advocate in finding the best surgeon:

· The health and wellness industry has made it easy for us to do research online. In your inquiry, seek out the latest state-of-the-art surgery technologies. After studying the various options you are more ready to select a surgeon.

· Search for doctors that use minimally invasive surgical techniques to reduce pain, restore mobility, and promote a quicker return to normal activities.

· In being your own patient advocate you may find the need to look outside your local area for a surgeon. Surgery is an invasive medical procedure. It is in your best interest to feel confident you will receive the highest quality of care.

· I encourage you to inquire how experienced your potential surgeon is. You want someone who has done the procedure hundreds of times to ensure the best outcome.

Hopefully you feel more feel confident about being your own patient advocate when planning for surgery. There are countless online resources available to help sort through the maze of information. Use these guidelines when seeking out what is available and you will find balance in your emotional health.

What Medical Malpractice May Encompass

Generally speaking, the term medical malpractice means negligence caused by health care professionals leading to injuries or the death of a patient. Medical malpractice has no particular method or place in which it strikes. It just happens to anyone, anytime, when they least expect it.

At one time medical malpractice wasn’t as prevalent, or more likely, was not recognized for what it was; thus, it went unreported. It is a situation still present today, as many people don’t realize they have been or are a victim of medical malpractice. It is far too ingrained in society not to question the wisdom of doctors when, in fact, we should always ask questions as well as be our own medical advocates.

This is something not many people know: at the time of the first visit to a physician, the health of the patient is NOT the responsibility of that doctor; however, it becomes the responsibility of the doctor once treatment has commenced. A smart patient needs to keep track of doctor’s appointments, diagnosis, prescriptions and treatments.

So, what types of medical malpractice are there – the most common ones? Malpractice may happen at any time thanks to a delay in treatment, the result of medications prescribed, or even as the result of improper monitoring and/or administration of anesthesia.

In general, the most common forms of medical malpractice are birth injuries and defects, wrongful death, surgical errors, cosmetic surgery errors, breast implant malpractice, dental errors, psychiatric malpractice, and unnecessary surgery. No matter what the malpractice may be, be it a breast cancer misdiagnosis to mismanagement of a heart attack, the patient has the right to file a medical malpractice lawsuit and seek compensation for damages.

A word or two of advice about filing a medical malpractice lawsuit: do not wait or you will miss the statute of limitations. Most states have a two-year limitation, but don’t assume that is the case. Speak to a highly qualified attorney and find out what the statute of limitations says in your state.

If you choose to wait longer than two years, your chances of getting compensation drastically drops, statistically speaking, which isn’t to say you may not get compensation, but the chances of doing so are low. If you think you are a victim of medical malpractice, seek competent legal counsel to obtain justice.

Hospital Forgives Medical Debt For 90 Year Old

A Colorado hospital forgave over $21,000 in medical debt for a local 90 year resident. Despite all the stories we hear bashing health care providers, a story where a hospital shows compassion is a welcome change of pace.

My client, Liz, owed a local hospital for services received in 2008 as a result of an accident. Liz was not eligible for Medicare, and had private insurance. After admittance to the hospital on an emergency basis, she remained there for rehabilitation treatment. Her claims were paid at out of network level, leaving her with significant balances owed. While she made small monthly payments, she never really understood why she owed all that she did and how she got into this mess.

Liz had no family to help her and lives in downtown Denver. When she called me, she pleaded with me to come down to Denver and meet with her to help her, as she was very confused about all of her medical bills. I made the trip from Loveland to Denver and sat down with her at a local McDonald’s restaurant (she told me her kitchen table in her apartment was not big enough to spread out the papers). She entered the restaurant very slowly, using a wheeled walker. As I spoke with her and looked through all of the piles of bills, I was amazed at how bright and sharp and intelligent her blue eyes were, as she seemed to understand most of what I was saying, and was able to intelligently answer my questions. Needless to say, I was impressed with her and I certainly felt compassion for her circumstances. She wanted to do what was right, and pay her fair share, but the weight of these large bills were more than she could handle.

I wrote a well thought out letter to the hospital, petitioning them to forgive Liz’s debt, and providing a rationale for why I felt that they do this. The amazing thing: I received a prompt reply from them. They agreed to bring all of her accounts out of collection, and reduce them to a zero balance, for both the hospital and for the physicians amounts owed.

What a wonderful outcome and phone call it was for me to call Liz and inform her of this great news. Imagine her relief to no longer have this burden. And, it is encouraging that the hospital administration truly do have a heart.