Today is Day 8 of a 31 Days Of Surviving Chronic Illness. You can catch up on Day 1 here.
Today is going to be a mashup of a few tips as well as some snags to watch out for while navigating through the medical maze.
Tests/Procedures/Medications ordered by your doctor
- It is always a mix of hopefulness and fear when a doctor orders test, procedures or medications for you. Especially when you are unfamiliar with what he has ordered. We have a tendency to just blindly trust doctors but experience has taught me this is unwise. When your doctor orders a new test, procedure or medication do your research before going through with it. A good doctor will not be offended if you tell him you want to think about it first or even get a 2nd opinion. Don't let them bully you! If it makes you uncomfortable or your "good sense" is telling you to wait, listen up. Because although some drugs get in/out of your system quickly, some can take several months and could have devastating side effects to your already taxed system.
- Just like doctors, there are good pharmacies and bad ones. Ask your doctor or your doctor's nurse which pharmacies they find the most reliable.
- Once you find a pharmacy you like stick with it. It really helps to have pharmacy staff that recognize you. Once they know you they are much more likely to do little favors for you, process your prescriptions faster, phone the doctor when problems arise, etc.
- Even after you find a good pharmacy, watch them like a hawk. Mixups in prescription medicine happen all the time. I have been given both double and half of the medication prescribed by my doctor by a lax pharmacist. When you pick up your prescriptions, before you leave, take them out of the bag and look for any dosage changes. Check if there were any substitutions such as generic for brand name or change in delivery method or dosage changes your doctor forgot to tell you about.
- You know all that paperwork they attach to your bag of pills? Read it! Always read the expected side effects and the possible drug interactions. In a perfect world you could rely on the doctor and the pharmacist to convey this information but that just isn't reality.
- Your local pharmacist can be a wealth of information so don't be afraid to ask questions. A great pharmacist can tell you what to expect when starting a new prescription as well as warn you about little known interactions like taking thyroid meds with dairy (don't do it, the calcium suppresses thyroid uptake).
- Some pharmacies offer their own prescription plans for a low annual fee. One of my friends, who did not have medical insurance, was prescribed an expensive pill. A pill she could not afford. She was able to sign up for the pharmacy's private prescription plan and get the medication at an affordable price. Pharmacies also have consultations for blood pressure, flu shots, diabetes management and other conditions. Just ask your pharmacist for info on all the ways they can help you.
- Again, there are good ones and bad ones. Ask your doctor or nurse which labs they prefer.
- Some are more expensive than others so it pays to do some shopping around. Cheaper isn't always better, but cheaper isn't always bad either.
- If you have a baby or toddler that needs to have labwork done, be sure to ask around for the best lab for pediatric needs. Some phlebotomists just have a talent for working with children and the nurses know who they are.
- I cannot stress how important it is to read the EOB's (Explanation of Benefits) that your insurance company sends you after you receive treatment or have labwork done. The EOB explains how much of the cost your insurance company is going to cover. But there are OFTEN mistakes, either from the doctor/labs end or the insurance company's end or both. After my first knee surgery I received a $5,000 bill from the hospital saying that my insurance was only going to cover 20% of my surgical expenses even though the surgery had been pre-approved. After I picked myself up off the floor, had a very heated conversation with a clueless insurance adjuster, had a 2nd conversation with a more helpful insurance adjuster, and lastly a conversation with my HR department, a HUGE problem in the contracts of my entire medical group (effecting thousands of people) was discovered. A couple days later my claim was resubmitted and was covered by insurance.
- If you are unsure of the details of your insurance coverage first call the number on the back of your card. If you are still confused talk to your HR department. If you still need some help, talk to the insurance broker who helps your company purchase insurance. The answers are out there, don't give up until all your questions are answered.
- Just because your doctor orders the test doesn't mean it's covered by insurance. Some tests are considered "non essential" by insurance companies so if you are low on funds, call the insurance company before you have a procedures or labwork done. If your insurance isn't going to cover the cost, talk to you doctor to see if there is another test that IS covered. Or postpone it until you can find a way to pay for it.
So those are just a few of the tips & tricks I have, I'm sure some of you have a few as well. Feel free to share them here or on the Facebook page!