Healthcare Tools, Access
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The Empowered Healthcare Consumer

Posted by Marc Lichtenstein

This is a true healthcare story…

A woman I know, who I will call “Lucy” to protect her privacy, recently suffered a very painful injury. Lucy slipped on a staircase in her home and tried to break her fall with her right hand, resulting in what appeared to be a very bad break of her ring finger. She was in agonizing pain. It was a Sunday afternoon, so Lucy’s husband prepared to rush her to the ER. When he suggested they go to a hospital less than 10 minutes from their home, Lucy had a moment of clarity despite the pain and told him to take her to a different hospital that was almost 45 minutes away instead. “In case I need surgery, I want to go where they have the best orthopedic surgeons!” she reasoned.

Lucy’s husband was astounded that she was willing to endure more pain for a longer car ride to her preferred hospital, but she was adamant so he agreed. He knew that his wife was very well-informed about their local healthcare options; when their youngest son broke his leg two years before, Lucy did a lot of research into the best orthopedic facilities near their home. She spoke with friends and relatives in the area, asked for personal recommendations from her social media networks, searched online for facilities with special distinctions and recognition for quality care, and she educated herself on what questions to ask orthopedic physicians to help ensure that the right care was being administered, by the right providers, in the most efficient ways.

Lucy explained to him later that just knowing they were going to her hospital of choice made the pain a little more bearable. “It lifted some of my anxiety and distress just knowing I was going to be treated at  a facility that was widely recognized as having the best orthopedic medical services in my area by my friends, family, and by independent but highly respected sources. I even knew that they were in our provider network, so there was no anxiety for me about costs factoring into the decision. I was able to deal with the pain better because I wasn’t worried about where I was going, or who was going to treat me, or how it was going to be paid for.” She was treated and released that same day, and her hand is healing well.

Lucy is not just a patient, she is an empowered healthcare consumer. An empowered healthcare consumer is someone who makes their healthcare choices based on information instead of instinct. A person’s natural first response to pain is to get rid of the pain as fast as possible, but an empowered healthcare consumer like Lucy is aware of the best choices for her and her family. 

Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies believe that empowered healthcare consumers play a key role in improving access to quality care in America. Consumers who have the tools to make smart choices about their health can make better, more value-conscious healthcare decisions. One way Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies help consumers become informed is with easy-to-use-and-access online information that helps them find good doctors—wherever they are—and the best hospitals for treatment, and even the cost of common medical treatments.

The online and mobile Blue National Doctor and Hospital Finder gives consumers access to valuable data-driven information, and the power to make their best healthcare choices about their care. More than just a directory of names, it enables our members to quickly find out which doctors and hospitals are in their Plan’s network, read and write reviews of doctors and hospitals, get reliable cost estimates about more than 160 common procedures, identify doctors who have been recognized for their quality efforts, and helps our members build a better, more informed, local healthcare community.

Lucy made a conscious decision where to seek treatment for her injury based on solid information. She was lucky to have the physical ability and the mental wherewithal to make this decision, but the information she based her decision on was not acquired by chance. As an empowered healthcare consumer, Lucy put herself in the right position to receive the right care.

There are many ways you can become an empowered healthcare consumer. Start by becoming more familiar with the healthcare treatment options in your area, from Physicians, to hospitals and urgent care clinics, and even having a 24-hour nurse line handy in case you’re just not sure what to do (BCBS Members: check the back of your BCBS card or contact your Plan for your nurse line number). BCBS members can go online to quickly get a better understanding of how your insurance plan works so you can maximize your benefits. Learn how to read your Explanation Of Benefits (EOB) statement to help better manage your healthcare, and help your insurer verify services to prevent potential fraud. And when you use the online and mobile Blue National Doctor and Hospital finder, you can become an empowered healthcare consumer in just a few clicks.

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