We all know the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” While it may take more than just an apple, a new study found that the general principle is true: Patients who take an active role in their daily health have lower health care costs, suggesting they require less medical attention.
In the study, Dr. Judith Hibbard of the University of Oregon examined data from 33,000 patients. She found that patients who are confident and knowledgeable when it comes to self-care had significantly lower medical costs.
Even among patients with similar medical backgrounds, those who were more involved in home care – judged by their self-reported levels of knowledge, skills, motivation and confidence – had costs up to 21 percent lower. Unexpected medical bills are one of the most commonly cited causes of bankruptcy, but such a reduction in costs may be enough to save some people’s financial situations.
Here are some tips on how you can become more active in your health care and lower your bills long term:
1. Prepare for doctor visits.
Before any appointment, make a list of your prescriptions and other drugs, including dietary and herbal supplements. Also write down any questions you have for your doctor about existing or potential medical issues.
2. Communicate with your doctor.
During the appointment, be sure to ask questions, discuss your symptoms and conditions, and request additional information in the form of written instructions or online resources. If you need to undergo any procedures, be sure you understand the purpose and expected outcome. Always inform your doctor if you are pregnant, nursing or allergic to any medications.
3. Follow up.
Follow your doctor’s instructions at home and make follow-up appointments. Also, call your doctor if symptoms worsen or you have trouble carrying out instructions. Request any lab results, and ask for explanations of any abnormal findings.
4. Get or stay healthy.
Make an effort to follow tried-and-true rules like sleeping enough, drinking plenty of water, exercising and eating well. Also try to reduce your stress levels and cut bad habits like smoking and drinking.
5. Get preventive tests and care.
Preventing a potential medical condition is safer and cheaper than treating an existing one. Talk to your doctor about screening for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, sexually transmitted diseases and other medical conditions for which you may be at risk. Ask about ways to reduce your risk of health problems.
Taking better care of yourself has a multitude of physical and mental benefits, as well as financial ones. If you’re not sure where to start, you can get tips from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Then, make an appointment with a general practitioner for a physical and ask about what else you can do on your own.