5 Tips for Working with Doctors

When it comes to figuring out how health care works and doesn’t work, nothing does the trick better than having to live through an emergency, an accident or serious health issues.

My 24-year-old son was in a car accident in April 2014 when a tractor-trailer pulled out in front of him on a major highway. A study of the accident scene says he was going the speed limit, and the truck pulled out from a side street going around 10 to 15 mph.

Needless to say, his injuries were serious. He spent 10 days in intensive care with internal injuries and a traumatic brain injury. After months of rehab for his body and brain, he is now well on his way to complete recovery.

Overall, his care has been excellent. The emergency trauma staff and intensive care doctors were amazing. Not only did they keep him alive and take care of his injuries, they were kind to our family and friends. They kept us posted on his progress and explained everything he was going through. The medical staff at the rehab hospital told us what to expect and eased our minds when his memory and behavior concerned us. I learned a lot through my son’s accident and recovery. Here are some first-hand experience quick tips I can share as a result.

  1. Talk to the doctor. While the nurses know their stuff and are the ones taking care of you, the doctor is the one making the decisions. Whether you have a life-or-death story like ours, or you’redealing with a chronic condition like joint pain or heart problems, you need the doctor to explain everything to you and let you be part of the decision-making process – which is why it’s important to get a PCP.

  2. Get it in writing. When you are dealing with complicated health issues, either take notes or ask for a print out of doctor’s notes at each visit. You won’t remember everything you discussed. Having something to look back at will keep you on track with doing your part. We put a binder together of everything related to our son’s care, including print outs of images and blood test results.

  3. Trust your feelings. We have HMO, so our primary care physician (PCP) was in charge of coordinating with the hospitals and specialists throughout our son’s treatment, as well as managing all the follow-up care when he left the hospital. We quickly became concerned that the doctor wasn’t on top of things. In this situation, we felt our son’s life was in jeopardy if his care wasn’t carefully managed. If you are frustrated with how things are going or don’t feel like your needs are being taken care of, you’re probably right. Be open about your concerns and if things don’t improve, think about finding another doctor. We did, and it made a world of difference to his care and our peace of mind.

  4. Keep your insurance company in the loop. The day after the accident, I called the main Customer Service number listed on my Blue Cross member ID card. That put my mind at rest that everything was being financially taken care of. When I had a question about a claim, they had answers. When we had problems with the PCP, they stepped in todeal with it. They also assigned a nurse to be our son’s case manager, and she stayed in regular contact with me to monitor what was being done and to make sure Blue Cross Blue Shield had what it needed to help. She even had a Blue Cross Blue Shield medical director look at his CAT scan to give us his opinion when we had concerns about the doctor’s decision. Did you know you can request a case manager any time you are dealing with complicated health issues? Blue Cross Blue Shield has a dedicated case management team on hand specifically for that purpose. Simply call customer service and explain the situation, and a case manager will be appointed if needed.

  5. Remember: YOU are the customer. This is your health. Yes, you are dealing with medical professionals and insurance experts, but they are being paid to take care of YOUR needs. Expect to be kept in the loop. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. And raise your hand if you don’t agree with something or aren’t satisfied with the answers you are getting. I’m not saying get mad and loud, but don’t just stand in the shadows and hope for the best.

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  • We don't get training or practice for dealing with a health care emergency, and yet it's so important that we manage those situations well. Great article. Thank you.

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