Healthcare reform aims to make healthcare more accessible and affordable for a larger number of Americans. While it remains to be seen what will happen with what is turning into a complex, convoluted mess created to accomplish these goals, the Affordable Care Act, you as a healthcare provider already have the opportunity to help your patients save big when it comes to their medical expenses.
In my daily nurse practitioner life, it’s easy to lose sight of my patient’s long-term healthcare goals and even easier to neglect considering the cost of their medical care. I get bogged down in writing prescriptions, addressing only acute, pressing problems at hand while overlooking more overarching issues. For example, it is much easier for me to address a patient’s back pain by prescribing a muscle relaxer and pain reliever, when really their persistent aches and pains are likely related to weighing 300 pounds. There are three practical ways we as nurse practitioners and physician assistants can act saving our patients more than healthcare reform ever will.
- Prevention. Even if you don’t work in a family practice environment, helping your patients stay healthy is key to their future wellness and decreasing their medical bills. Chronic medical conditions like hypertension and diabetes require multiple medications taken on a day-to-day basis often costing hundreds of dollars each month. Frequent visits to a medical provider to follow-up with chronic conditions leads to an endless stream of medical bills arriving in your patient’s mailboxes. Not to mention, the eventual complications of these conditions like heart disease. I’m guessing the average cost of a CABG is in the tens of thousands. Taking the time to educate your patients on the front end so they can prevent developing chronic medical problems will save them thousands in future healthcare costs.
- Disease Management. While we can and should take a preventative approach to disease, many of our patients are already chronically ill or will simply head this direction regardless of our preventative promptings. For these patients, managing their chronic diseases closely will prevent future complications. Encourage diabetics to keep their blood sugars under control giving them the resources to do so. Ask your hypertensive patients to monitor their own blood pressures at home giving you an indicator of their average readings so you can adjust medications appropriately. Strict management of chronic medical conditions helps prevent further complications keeping your patients healthier and their medical bills less costly.
- Maintain Ongoing Relationships with Your Patients. Taking the time to get to know your patients can be tough. Practice constraints like pressure to bill encourage quick visits. But, maintaining good standing with your patients keeps them coming back giving you more opportunity to keep them healthy. Seeing a healthcare provider can be a daunting and overall negative experience. By transforming your clinic into a positive environment gives you more opportunity to encourage healthy living among your patients. Once again, healthy equates to a lower cost of medical care.
This is an interesting time to be working in healthcare. Let’s remember that despite the coming changes with the Affordable Care Act, we as providers are responsible for helping our patients maintain their health in a low-cost manner.
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