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How to Navigate Your Way Through the Heath Care System

Posted on Wednesday, June 21, 2017 by UVM Health Network - CVMC

If you’ve been diagnosed with a serious lung or other medical condition, it’s likely that your life is about to get complicated. But you can minimize problems by being prepared and recruiting support.

Finding that support was the topic of a discussion led by Theresa Lever, CVMC’s Patient Navigator for Cancer Care. It focused on “Navigating the Health Care System” at the American Lung Association’s Lung Force Expo in South Burlington.

Some of the tips she offered are:

  • Choose a provider you trust and communicate well with. You will have multiple providers and it helps to have one person or office you can contact when you’re feeling overwhelmed or are uncertain where to turn. 
  • Know your basic insurance coverage. It will not be possible to find out exactly what every service will cost, but you can plan better if you know whether your providers are in-network and what your maximum out-of-pocket costs will be. If your situation is particularly complicated, consider asking your insurer for a case manager. This person will advocate for you to get what you need.
  • Be aware that there is help. Keep asking until you find that helping person. It might be a social worker, navigator, health coach or health coordinator. This person can tell you about services and supports that others may not know about.
  • Make the most of your appointments by preparing and prioritizing questions and having a companion take notes. Have your list of medications ready. Report your symptoms concisely.  Stay on-subject in your conversation with your provider. Don’t leave without knowing what the next step is. 
  • Practice good communication. Be clear; don’t beat around the bush. Expect clarity in return.  If you don’t understand, have it said again and differently. Ask if your provider will communicate with other providers. Ask for the necessary paperwork for medical records to be shared between providers. Ask for written reports of your visits. Use the patient portal. When calling the provider’s office, be prepared to clearly communicate what you want and need.
  • Speak up to minimize delays. If the wait for an appointment seems too long, tell people you’d like it sooner. Let them know if you’re willing to be referred elsewhere for an earlier appointment and if you’re willing to be on a cancellation list.
  • Get what you can close to home. Go elsewhere for second opinions and specialty care, but return to your home provider for any care available there. It will make your life easier. 
  • Get your information from reputable sources. Use internet sites recommended by your providers. As a rule, stay away from .com sites and use sites with addresses that end in .edu, .gov, and .org.

To learn more ways of finding the support you or a family member needs, contact Theresa Lever, Patient Navigator for Cancer Care, at 802-225-5449 or theresa.lever@cvmc.org.

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