Give Yourself and Your Doctor a Christmas Gift

Health Care in the North State presents particular challenges. We simply do not have enough providers. Our doctors’ offices have large patient loads and limited time available for each patient. When new people move to our area, they are surprised to find that you must apply to be accepted as a patient and many offices simply are not taking new patients.

So, when you are going to see your doctor, nurse practitioner (FNP) or Physician’s Assistant (PA), do yourself and them a favor. Prepare for the appointment. If you are going to have a telehealth appointment there are additional steps you will need as well.

As an insurance agent, always recommend that individuals bring a copy of their drug formulary with them to the appointment. A drug formulary is a list showing your health plan’s approved prescription drugs. Most formularies have multiple “tiers”. Your share of cost or copay depends on the Tier that is assigned to your drug.

Typically there are five covered tiers: Preferred Generic, Generic, Preferred Brand, Non-Preferred Brand and Specialty. If the drug is not included in these categories then it is “Non-Formulary” and you will likely pay the entire cost of the medicine.

These tiers are defined by the companies in an effort to control costs as well as manage efficacy of treatment.

Your provider will not know your formulary. Therefore, it benefits you both if you have the booklet with you or are able to download and become familiar with the app that you can use to look up the Rx. There are multiple drugs that the provider can use to treat a condition, so this give you both some help.

Two local primary care physicians have provided the following additional advice to help you prepare for your visit. Most visits are allotted about 15 minutes, so you will want to use the time well. Typically only two issues can be addressed in that time.

Here are the suggestions:
1) Bring a complete list of your current medications; what you are actually taking or have recently taken and stopped. Know which one is which.

2) Be prepared to provide the names of other providers you have seen recently as well as lab tests or imaging, including the date. Tracking down records wastes valuable time.

3) Take your vital signs like blood pressure the day before the visit and write it down, especially if you are being treated for hypertension, diabetes, etc.

4) If you have a complicated diagnosis or trouble processing information, have a trusted advisor with you who can take notes for you.

5) Due to Covid, if you are having an in-person appointment, ask if you can wait in your car and have a text notification when they are ready for you. Be sure to wear an appropriate mask and wear it properly. Be sure all of the staff in the office is wearing a mask. If not, you might want to consider alternate care such as telemedicine.

With Covid protocols in place, we are more likely to have a telemedicine appointment. It’s likely this will continue after the pandemic ends. It is especially efficient for elderly patients who have trouble getting to the doctor’s office. These are the additional helpful hints.

1) Have a smart phone or device capable of video visits. If you don’t know how to use it, be sure to have someone with you who can assist you.

2) Make sure your phone or device will accept calls from a blocked caller ID numbers. Be prepared to answer a “blocked call” at the appointed time. Make sure your phone is not sent to send calls automatically to voice mail. Just like “in-person” appointments, the doctor may be a little late for the appointed time, so be prepared to be available for an extended time.

3) If your appointment involves rashes or the like, be prepared to send a photograph. Be sure to look at it before you send it to be sure everything shows.

Your provider might have as many as 30 visits scheduled in a day. They focus during the 15 minute exchange, but likely don’t give it much thought after it is completed. The workload is simply too large.

Because of this reality, I encourage clients to understand it is incumbent upon them to become their own best advocate. Take notes, keep track of your medical history. No one knows your body better than you do. If you are not getting your issues resolved, don’t be afraid to request a referral to a more advanced provider. Medicine is as much art as it is science and every provider has not seen every condition.

Do the best for yourself and your medical provider, prepare for your visit.

Margaret R. Beck

Margaret Beck CLU, ChFC, CEBS started her insurance practice in Redding in 1978. She founded Affiliated Benefit Services.

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