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A New Year’s resolution

Register • Dec 19, 2013 at 11:10 PM

‘How to be your own health care advocate’


All our lives we have been accustomed to what is called the “physician-centered” system of care. We show up. The doctor tells us what to do, and that is the end of our responsibility.


In an article by Charles Bardes, M.D., March 1, 2012, in the New England Journal of Medicine titled “Defining Patient-Centered Medicine” he provides an interesting description of what we have grown accustomed to: “A patient consults an orthopedist because of knee pain. The surgeon determines that no operation is indicated and refers her to a rheumatologist, who finds no systemic inflammatory disease and refers her to a physiatrist, who sends her to a physical therapist, who administers the actual treatment. Each clinician has executed his or her craft with impeccable authority and skill, but the patient has become a shuttlecock”

With health care reform, we are moving to a “patient-centered” system of care. Dr. Bardes describes it this way: “As a form of practice, it seeks to focus medical attention on the individual patient’s needs and concerns, rather than the doctor’s”

As a senior citizen, if you don’t know how to make the most out of your health care provider, make it your New Year’s resolution for 2014 to find out how you can do this. Being passive and ignorant about your health care could shorten your quality of life and your quantity of years as you grow older.

According to Health Affairs, a well-respected health policy publication, in a blog titled “Patient Centered Care: What it Means and How to get There” “Physicians practicing patientcentered care improve their patients’ clinical outcomes and satisfaction rates by improving the quality of the doctor-patient relationship, while at the same time decreasing the utilization of diagnostic testing, prescriptions, hospitalizations, and referrals. Patient-centered practitioners focus on improving different aspects of the patientphysician interaction by employing measurable skills and behaviors”

The passive patient receives the worst health care, and the new patient centered care means you are to take responsibility for the quality of your working relationship with your health care professional(s). To do this means patients must understand things like: knowing what’s important to tell YOUR doctor; how to make sense out of the jargon used to explain your health problems; know how your Medicare insurance works and what it will/will not cover; know how the health care marketplace works and what it will/will not cover.

Starting in April, Tina Elmlinger, RN, will facilitate a nine-month “How to Be Your Own Health Care Advocate” course. It meets once a month for two hours. The classes are interactive. There are no quizzes or tests. You will begin your journey learning how to make the most of the “patient-centered care” system. Some examples of the topics covered are: “What’s normal aging — and what’s not; what you can do to get the most out of your health care visits; how to talk to your doctor; medical jargon made easy; what to do when you are in the hospital and more.

Erie County residents age 60 and older can register now for the training course. The course is free, but near perfect attendance is required. Registration is limited to 75 people. For information, call Serving Our Seniors and ask to speak with Tina Elmlinger, RN, at 419-624-1856 or 800-564-1856.

Ask Serving Our Seniors

Q: I received a call saying the government is issuing new Medicare cards, and the caller needed to verify Medicare has the correct information about me. He asked me to give him my full legal name, address and date of birth. After I did, he asked me for my checking account information to be sure I am who I say I am so the card doesn’t get mailed to an imposter. I gave him the information. Should I have done that?

A: No. You should not have done that. You have given that scam artist everything he needs to take your money and your identity and bleed you dry. This needs to be reported to the local police department. Be sure a report is written.

Next, call the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging Fraud Hotline at 855-303-9470 and report this. If you are age 60 or older and would like assistance calling to report this crime, Serving Our Seniors can help you.

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