Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Why we need to go from e-patient to i-patient (insurance savvy patient)

From the 3 February 2012 KevinMD column  by Jackie Fox

I found a recent Associated Press article on an aspect of the new health care law that many of us may have overlooked. It requires consumer-friendly summaries of what insurance plans cover, a provision that now seems to be at risk. The insurance industry is up in arms about implementation costs and added regulatory burdens. (There’s a good story at NPR, which includes a link to an example of what the language would look like.)


My initial thought was what a shame it would be to lose that provision. But then my mind flipped to the e-patient movement and how it’s teaching people to be active participants in our medical care. That means learning as much as we can about our conditions and treatment options and sometimes questioning our doctors’ recommendations.

It occurred to me that when we focus only on doctors, we’re missing a very sizable forest for the trees.  One of the overriding concerns of health care reform is getting costs under control. …

This is where I think the “i-patient” needs to step up: “i” for insurance-savvy. We should be demanding to know what insurance companies’ decisions are based on when they deny a claim. My oncologist told me one of his denials was based on the assessment of a general practitioner hired by the insurance company. Without the specialized knowledge of blood markers an oncologist has, this doctor didn’t realize that the normal marker used as a basis for denial wasn’t a good indicator. Where does that leave my oncologist and his decades of experience?  Like he told me, “Medicine is not like taking a car to a shop.” Patients need to know about this. When selecting an insurance company, we should know which ones have the worst record of denying claims.

We also should be keeping a close watch on electronic medical records, beyond simply demanding access to our own records. I recently read a fascinating post by Adam Sharp, MD, founder of par80 & Sermo, called “Why EMR is A Four-Letter Word to Most Doctors.” He explained how EMRs were largely a top-down effort, allowing third parties to implement policies by simply removing options from the EMR.  “If you can’t select a particular treatment option, for all intents and purposes, it doesn’t exist or the red tape to choose it is so painful that there is little incentive to fight the system.”…

…We need an i-patient movement to make sure our voices are heard and our choices are preserved. We need to ensure those choices are made in partnership with our doctors, not handed down to both of us by some invisible third-party payer. We have a Society for Participatory Medicine (I’m a member); maybe it’s time we had a Society for Participatory Insurance. Because our doctors can’t fight this battle alone.



February 8, 2012 - Posted by | health care | , ,

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