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How to be a Wise Health Care Consumer

February 13, 2014

Studies show that Americans spend more time researching car purchases and new appliances than they do choosing doctors and health plans. Information about the choices we have as health care consumers can be confusing and hard to find. And many of us are shy about negotiating with our doctors, or asking if an expensive test is really necessary.

The average cost of a visit to the doctor is about $199; a visit to the ER costs about $922, according to AHRQ. About 25% of those visits are unnecessary. You can imagine how many billions of dollars this costs everyone every year. On the other side of the spectrum, consumers who want to save money on their health care are cutting dangerous corners that could cost a lot more in the long run: failing to refill prescriptions, taking a friend’s medicine instead, or skipping life-saving preventive screenings, for example.

THA Group supports Wise Health Care Consumer Month in an effort to encourage our community to be more involved in their own health care and to be better health care consumers.

Wise health care consumers should:

  • Know how to choose a health care plan
  • Choose their care providers carefully and thoughtfully
  • Communicate with their health care providers
  • Be comfortable asking questions, sharing concerns and negotiating costs
  • Analyze and evaluate sources of health information
  • Practice preventive care
  • Know when to treat themselves at home
  • Understand their prescriptions and take them as directed

10 Tips for Being a Wise Health Care Consumer

  1. Take the time to carefully select a doctor or health care provider. Ask friends or relatives for recommendations. Investigate whether or not the doctor participates with your health insurance plan.
  2. Prepare for visits to your health care provider by compiling lists of questions or concerns you wish to discuss during your appointment. By making the most of the time you have, you can avoid unnecessary calls and repeat visits.
  3. Ask questions about medications you are prescribed. Understand why you are taking it and how it should be taken. Finish all medications, even if you are feeling better.
  4. Keep a checklist of all medications you are taking and share this list with your health care provider. This is especially important if you are seeing more than one doctor.
  5. Be aware of routine medical tests and examinations, and the recommended times to have them. You may be able to avoid unnecessary and expensive tests.
  6. Use home medical tests when available. They are less costly and can be used without a visit to the doctor.
  7. Keep a well stocked home pharmacy with commonly used medicinal items. This can help you deal with common problems and save costly trips to the doctor or emergency room.
  8. Understand your health insurance plan. A list of basic questions about what is covered and knowing the answers to these questions can save time and money,
  9. Take care of your mental health as well as you would your physical health. States of emotional upset can interfere with daily living routines, and can ultimately affect you physical well being.
  10. Keep a list of health agencies handy as a reference. Most are available by phone, fax or email and can serve as a resource for free information and support.


Learn more about health care consumerism at the American Institute for Preventive Medicine’s website. Founded in 1983, the AIPM is one of the first five companies to receive URAC Accreditation for Comprehensive Wellness. It is an award winning developer and provider of medical self-care, disease management, and wellness publications, programs and online content. It has helped over 13,000 corporations, hospitals, MCOs, unions, government agencies and schools reduce health care costs, lower absenteeism and increase productivity.

Source: American Institute for Preventive Medicine’s Wise Health Care Consumer Toolkit