Why Use a Patient Advocate?

When you hear the words from your health provider: "I'm sorry to tell you that you have_______."  Where does your mind go?  For most people, after hearing that initial diagnosis, they are unable to process most of the information that follows.  Their mind is racing ahead to "what if...", "how will I...", "this could not possibly be true..."  Once you leave their office you may think of dozens of questions and your mind will probably race or go numb.  

Getting a serious health diagnosis is devastating.  How will I fit this into my already busy schedule?  How will I continue my job? My parenting?  My life?  Will I survive?  Often those who are close to us provide great comfort and support, but they may also be overwhelmed and scared.

A Patient Advocate can help you make sense of the situation.  An Advocate will research pertinent and reliable information to educate you about your diagnosis, treatment options and support services.  They can help you organized for your medical appointments by identifying your goals and priorities, formulating questions, preparing descriptions of symptoms and concerns.  You may benefit from having your Advocate accompany you at medical appointments to be another set of ears and to help clarify information you are not sure you understand.  Your Advocate can help you with logistics, arranging the sequence of appointments, all the paperwork, getting copies of records and reviewing insurance coverage and authorizations.

A Patient Advocate can research centers of excellence on your diagnosis to consult for second opinions and relevant clinical trials if appropriate.  Your Advocate can also connect you to resources and support to ease your day to day challenges.  

In short, you Advocate will be there for you throughout your health journey for support, education and empowerment so you can focus on getting well.

Medicare Open Enrollment

Medicare Open Enrollment begins on October 15.  If you are a Medicare recipient it is a good idea to review your policy to be sure it still meets your needs.  The options are many and the choices can be very confusing.  If you are a snowbird or spend significant time away from your primary residence, it is important to be sure your policy covers non-emergency medical care (emergency care is usually covered but make sure you are familiar with the procedure) where you go.  Medicare Advantage plans have restricted networks for non-urgent care and these approved provider groups range in size depending on the plan.  Traditional Medicare on the other hand, can be used anywhere that Medicare is accepted.  Many people who choose traditional Medicare also buy a Supplemental Insurance policy to offset co-pay costs.  There are many supplemental plans to choose from and the right plan for you is dependent on how much healthcare you historically have consumed.  The Medicare Advantage plans and Supplemental plans are approved and sold based on your resident state and county.  Many counties have a service through their Office for Aging to consult with consumers to find the best plan for your individual circumstances.  In New York state you can find your local county resources  at  New York State Office for Aging  HIICAP: Health Insurance Information, Counseling and Assistance.

If there is no help though  your county services a good option is to find an independent insurance agent who can write plans from several insurance companies.  These agents can offer unbiased information and help you choose a plan to fit your health needs and budget.  There is no cost to you for this consultation as the agent is paid through the commission when selling you the policy.  

It is a good idea to know what your policy covers, what restrictions there are and how to access care if you need it.  Stay healthy and be proactive with you health insurance.

Coping Strategies: Mindfulness

Everybody has great ideas for coping strategies and it seems everybody thinks their ideas will work best for you!  My impression is that we all respond to things differently and even respond differently depending on the day and our mood.  Mindfulness seems to be a practice that is resurging even though it roots are ancient.  According to Harvard Health Publications HelpGuide, "Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment—and accepting it without judgment. Mindfulness is now being examined scientifically and has been found to be a key element in happiness." 

Mindfulness begins with the ability to be in the present and check in with oneself.  Starting here enables us to take a breath, see where we are and how we feel.  Sometimes for me, just the stillness of the moment allows me to re-focus.  It helps me to see what I need and take action.



Big Data and Health Care

 When I can't sleep I often listen to TED Talks.  Sometimes this puts me right to sleep, but often it peaks my interest and I have to listen again in the morning to see if I remember the substance...or if I dreamt it.  

Recently I listened to a series on Big Data describing its potential for improvements in health management and care while at the same time challenging our values and ethics.  I am so awed by  Riccardo Sabatini's TED Talk "How To Read The Human Genome and Build a Human Being" .  What really stand out to me are the volume of data contained in the genome mapping of a single individual, and that we have the potential to revolutionize personalized medicine to predict medical outcomes from individual circumstance instead of statistical predictions.  This potential for personalized medicine and prognoses also come with ethical and moral decisions like we have never before confronted.  Sabatini predicts that "the  decisions we make in the next year will change the course of history forever."   Therefore it is imperative that we not rely on science and technology alone, but to include philosophy, culture and humanity to inform our progress.  Decisions we make this NEXT YEAR...we are really on the precipice!

Being a proactive patient

It is not easy to be a "proactive patient."  When we need to be the most proactive it is usually at a time when we are most vulnerable: hearing a serious diagnosis for the first time, during a hospitalization, trying to figure out the "best" treatment/procedure, when we are confused and overwhelmed.  It is extremely rewarding for me to help others feel grounded and gain a sense of control for themselves during these times.  I am pleased to see more articles and stories in the main stream press related to advocating within the healthcare system and becoming an educated health consumer.  

I am excited to see the interest in articles shared on the Health Navigation of CNY Facebook page.