Health care

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

You want the best health care? Take charge of your medical records.

The best way to get better health care?  Take charge!  Your doctor won't be offended.  You'll be helping your health care providers do their best work.

You probably already know this, but your medical records are really yours.  You're entitled to copies of everything.  You need to start collecting your medical records.  It will probably be uncomfortable when you first start asking for copies, but get over it!  It's important.

Make it a habit to get copies of the records of all your doctor visits, hospitalizations, tests, etc.  Staff can either give you copies right away or send them in a few days.  They'll do so if you'll just ask. Then put the records into a three-ring binder organized by health care provider.  Update the binder every time you get a new document.

Now, here's where your work will pay off.  Take your binder with you to your doctor visits.  

Then, when your doctor asks you when you first started experiencing shortness of breath, you won't have to rely on your memory.  You'll be able to show your doctor the record of your medical exam in 2002 when you first started having the problem.  Your doctor will be able to see what your condition was then and what the other doctor did for you.  Your doctor can help you way more today when she has exact information about your symptoms, test results and the treatment that you received way back when.

Yes, maybe your doctor already has the records from your earlier exam.  But there's a good chance she doesn't.

And, yes, it's not easy always asking for records, and it's a pain to organize the records and tote your notebook along with you to appointments.  But isn't your health worth it?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Getting better health care.

As we age, we deal more and more with the health care industry.  More doctor visits and tests. More hospitalizations.  More medications.

And more questions, confusion and stress.

How can we get the best health care results?  Jon and I have been thinking about this a lot and learning what we can.  I'd like to share some ideas with you in my next few posts.

Of course, you know where I'll start: with having really good estate planning documents in place.  For health care, the most important is the health care power of attorney (where you designate who will make decisions about your health care when you can't).  You want to give a lot of thought to whom you name.  

If possible you should choose someone who can be your "medical advocate."  A medical advocate is someone who is willing and available to get involved in your health care.  You let your health care providers know who this person is and you make sure they meet your providers.  This person is in your corner, and you want everyone to know that.

Most importantly, your medical advocate should accompany you on all doctor visits and hospitalizations.  They can help you prepare questions before appointments and make sure you ask about what is bothering you the most.  If you are "out of it" they will be the ones asking the questions.

When the doctor gives answers they'll be making sure that you and they both understand the doctor's answers.  You'll want to make sure they know you want them to be persistent with your doctor when you don't understand at first what has been said.

That's a lot to ask someone to do for you.  And not everyone can help this much.  But, it's worth asking.  If you can enlist your healthcare agent to be your medical advocate, we guarantee you'll get better health care.

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