(Family Features) As intently as ever, Americans may choose to weigh their options, read online reviews and shop around to ensure they are choosing the best product or service at the best price. Health care should not be any different. People want options for their health care, receiving personalized care at a reasonable price and at a location that is convenient and comfortable.
1. Shop around for health care
When people are not in an emergency situation, it is beneficial to shop around for the best price for health care services. Americans have a right to price transparency in health care, meaning they know the cost of services before receiving them. Hospitals operating in the United States are required to provide clear, accessible pricing information online about the items and services they provide, so do not be afraid to ask for pricing information upfront.
According to a survey from LUGPA, the largest urology trade association in the United States, nearly one-third of older Americans worry they won’t get the care they need at a location they choose for a price they can afford. Their concern comes as no surprise since hospitals are usually more expensive than independent practices. Hospitals are increasingly combining into large hospital systems, which creates fewer choices where patients in a community can seek health care. This decrease in competition can often drive up the cost of care.
2. Consider independent practices
An independent medical practice is owned by health care providers who enjoy a greater level of control than physicians working for large health care systems. Physician-owned practices allow patients more choices for where they seek care, including specialty care. Independent practices are worth considering when shopping for care because these practices typically have a lower average cost per patient.
“Independent physicians work for patients,” said Jonathan Henderson, MD, president of LUGPA. “We often have patients we’ve known for decades, which establishes a relationship of trust. We discuss health decisions with patients based on what is in their best interests. We have no obligations to a hospital system. When needed, we can freely refer patients to other physicians who we expect to take the best care of our patients based on their individual needs.”
According to the survey, 65% of Americans trust independent physicians and associate them with more individualized and patient-focused care compared to physicians employed by hospitals. Physician-owned practices also provide a greater level of personalization and responsiveness, have fewer preventable hospital admissions and have lower readmission rates than larger, hospital-owned practices.
3. Ask if telehealth options are available
Patients should ensure they receive the highest quality care possible and at the location of their choice. Telehealth or telemedicine is typically done online through a computer or cell phone, allowing patients to receive care from a health care provider without an in-person office visit. Telehealth options can help increase access to care by enabling patients to choose where they receive it.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many physicians began to expand access to care using telehealth. Congress made this increased use of telehealth possible and now has the opportunity to make permanent telehealth reforms, so every health care provider in America is permitted to deliver safe, high-quality care using telehealth technology.
Americans can let their elected representatives know they back policies that give them the tools they need to choose the best health care for them. To learn more about policies that increase options and price transparency for health care, visit lugpa.org/BetterCareNow.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Rod is a blogger, writer, filmmaker, photographer, daydreamer who likes to cook. Rod produces and directs the web series, CUPIC: Diary of an Investigator. He is also the editor, producer and administrator of STM Daily News, a part of the TNC Network.