Shortcut Solutions to Health-Care Problems

Take the headache out of dealing with doctors and insurance companies. These time-saving strategies will get you on the fast track.

By Nancy Kalish
Illustration of a man in a long line waiting for a doctor Kiuchi Tatsuro

The Problem: You Need to Fill a Prescription and Don’t Want to Wait at the Pharmacy

Time-Saving Solutions:  

  • Make sure the pharmacy has your current insurance information. “Incorrect data is the biggest time drain at pharmacies,” says Kristen Binaso, a registered pharmacist and a spokesperson for the American Pharmacists Association. “If you wait until pickup time to inform the pharmacist that you have a new insurance card, it could add an extra 15 to 20 minutes per prescription.”
  • Ask if your doctor e-prescribes. Many doctors are subscribing to services that transmit prescriptions from a computer or a PDA to a pharmacy, cutting down on time and errors. Or ask your doctor to call the prescription into the pharmacy directly.


The Problem: You Have an Uncomfortable Ailment, and Your Doctor Can’t Fit You in for a Week

Time-Saving Solutions:  

  • See the nurse or the physician’s assistant. These professionals work under the guidance of the doctor and can treat simple problems. Some are even able to write prescriptions.
  • Head to a walk-in clinic. No appointment is necessary at convenient-care clinics, which are popping up in retail stores and pharmacies across the country. They are generally staffed by nurse-practitioners and may be open every day. Most visits take 15 minutes or less and are typically covered by insurance. “These clinics are ideal for minor problems, checkups, and adult vaccinations,” says King. “But you should always go to your own physician for continuing care of a serious or chronic condition.” To find a clinic, log on to ccaclinics.org or call your local pharmacy.


The Problem: You Need to Go to the ER and Get Treatment Stat

Time-Saving Solutions:  

  • Call your primary-care doctor before you go. She can call the emergency room to let the staff know you’re coming, explain what kind of care you’ll need, and order tests ahead of time. “Of course, if it’s a true emergency, don’t waste time tracking down your doctor,” says King. “Call 911 immediately.”
  • Be prepared. Every ER’s triage system ensures that the sickest are treated fastest, and there’s no way around it. “But having certain information can speed your treatment once you are seen,” says Nicholas Jouriles, M.D., president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. First, always carry your insurance card. Also keep a card in your wallet that lists all your doctors’ contact info and all your current medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, and dosages. “If you can, take along the herbal-supplement bottles,” says Jouriles. “I like to check the ingredients to safeguard against drug interactions.” In addition, bring a personal-health record with all your medical info. This will save time and help prevent treatment errors. Create a free one at medem.com (click on “For Patients,” then “Create an iHealthRecord”). Once complete, it can be printed out and saved online.
  
Read More About:Preventative Health

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