Take an active role to lower healthcare costs

It takes energy, motivation and the ability to understand what kind of medical treatment is best for one’s health. But when people take a proactive role in their healthcare management, the payoff may be more than just feeling better. It could be a financial savings as well, a new study found.

A research team that looked at medical data involving 33,000 patients in Minnesota determined that those who had the confidence and skills to play an active role managing their health concerns were able to reduce their medical expenses by 8 to 21 percent, compared to people who were less engaged in their treatments.

“The study highlights the important role that patients play in determining outcomes,” said study leader Judith Hibbard, Ph.D., a senior researcher at the Health Policy Research Group of the Institute for Sustainable Environments. “We found that patients who were more knowledgeable, skilled and confident about managing their day-to-day health and health care – also called patient activation – had healthcare costs that were substantially lower than patients who lacked this type of confidence and skill.”

Published in the journal Health Affairs, the research suggests that healthcare systems should consider patient involvement among the factors that contribute to the cost of medical treatments.

Being a participant
The Minnesota study mirrors advice given by the American Cancer Society, but may apply to any health condition when it comes to meetings between patients and their healthcare providers. The society recommends that people come to doctor appointments prepared with a list of concerns and questions, their family and personal history and a compilation of medications they take. When the doctor-patient discussion begins, people should listen carefully and take notes to refresh their memories later.

Asking questions is part of a good exchange, particularly if medical tests are planned. Patients should feel free to question what they can expect from new procedures and what the results will mean.

In addition, following up a doctor’s instructions for additional appointments, screenings for conditions such as blood pressure and cholesterol and diet recommendations are also important.

Maintaining a balanced diet and choosing dietary supplements are other ways in which patients can take a proactive approach to good health. The supplement Ultimate Reds from Dr. Newton’s Naturals, for instance, offers the antioxidant value of 20 fruits and vegetables. It may improve immune function, support joints and contribute to good cardiovascular health.

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