I’m sure you or someone you know has a hospital story to tell. This article will guide you to better survive your hospital experience.
Most hospitals seem to be in a competitive mode these days spending lots of money advertising there wares. It seems that you can’t get past prime time TV without seeing several hospital advertisements. Even in the newspapers full page ads are placed, but in my opinion most hospitals are the same no matter how you cook it. The only thing that will save you is your doctor who practices there. That is why you chose that hospital in the first place. It wasn’t for the cafeteria or the lobby entrance with all the beautiful fountains and artwork on the walls. Inside most hospitals are a spattering of incompetence that could be deadly to you. On the contrary, there are many good nurses, healthcare professionals and administrators as well, just hope they are the ones working on your case.
Never trust or take for granted any medication, procedure, doctor, medical staff member or hospital worker during your stay. Make sure to always contact your family practitioner first to have any relevant medical history sent to the attending physicians. Obviously during an emergency situation this cannot be done by you so make sure to always have a friend or family member assigned to take care of this. Federal law (HIPAA) protects your privacy and will restrict the release of medical records unless you designate in writing specific people who will be exempt including your spouse. A Power of Attorney should also be assigned just in case you are not able to make decisions on your own. Take care of these tasks TODAY!
Hospitals are necessary. They are institutions where the sick are given medical or surgical care. In some cases they are charitable organizations that offer this same care to the poor and needy. Hospitals can also cause you harm, medically and financially. They are for the most part “profit centers” gouging you and your insurance company like blood thirsty vampires for every dollar they can get. From charging you for a box of tissues to submitting insurance claims of $20,000 dollars for a single Cat Scan, a scam called cost shifting, a practice to recoup money from the uninsured who cannot pay them. “For Profit” hospitals who send you beg mail requesting donations will have no problem hiring a collection agency to go after you if you are late with your payment.
During your stay doctors will appear in your room to ask how you are feeling. The better your insurance company the more doctors will appear. Some might not even get past the door threshold. Make sure you ask them to identify themselves, ask what their specialty is and who referred them to you. Be sure to inform them that you will not pay them if they are bottom dwellers looking for an easy payday. (Your insurance company will pay them anyway but it will make you feel better and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?) Make sure you have an advocate with you to question them if you can’t so they don’t order unnecessary tests that you don’t need or duplicate them to cash in.
As you lay in bed lab technicians will come to take your bodily fluids. Ask what the tests are for and who order them. If they return to you room shortly after for more blood, question why they are back so soon. Usually a shift change in staff or a misread in doctors’ orders cause an earlier visit. Always ask why they are drawing your blood so soon after they just did it. If it’s for a different test ask why it wasn’t done earlier and again ask what doctor wrote the order and why it’s being done. If you’re not sure what’s going on or don’t get a reasonable answer, send them away until you get one. Again if you are unable to ask, have an advocate do the inquiring.
It’s medication time. Make sure you ask what you are being given and why. Make sure you are also given your normal medication that you take at home. Those pills may look different as they might be generic or from a different manufacturer. Always double check the medication and dosage. Again, ask who wrote the order for the medication and why you are being given it. Make sure you record when your medication was given and the timing of the next dose. Never ever take anything without questioning and if you cannot ask have your advocate to do the inquiring.
X-rays or other types of scans might be given to you. Ask why these scans are being given and what doctor gave the order. Ask questions if you are given multiple scans for what you think are duplications. Ask if there was a problem with the first take or if this a new view.
Time for your surgery. You will meet your anesthesiologist for the first time either the night before or right before your surgery. Ask him if his group is in-network with your insurance company. You have the right to refuse his services and request a doctor who is in your network. If there are none, you may be able to negotiate a better price with your insurance company or doctor but good luck with that. You should have checked ahead of time regarding the in-network status of the hospital and its doctors. Once your doctor has been secured, demand that during your surgery he is not to leave the room to work on other patients. He might get offended but you are paying for his time and service and not for him to leech onto other business especially when you’re on a respirator.
You’re in the surgical waiting room. You will be asked your name and what type of surgery you are having. Make sure a name band in secured to you arm. Your surgeon will meet with you and discuss what will be done. Make sure your surgeon is doing the surgery and not a medical student or resident while under his watch.
Recovery room after surgery follows. You will be in dreamland and most likely never remember anything that is said or done. It is very important to have your advocate present at this time. Although your nurses will be near you like flies to poop, they cannot be there all the time as they have other patients to look out for. Your advocate can provide simple tasks like swabbing your lips to keep them moist, handing you tissues or covering you with blankets. They can also make sure that your daily medication is not forgotten to be given to you unless ordered otherwise by your doctor.
Back to your room you go. You really don’t want to stay too much longer if you don’t have to and your insurance company loves an early departure, just make sure it’s not too early. You have the right to contest your departure time. There is usually a patient advocate available to discuss this matter but if it was me, I would want out of here before those Streptococcus bacteria’s grab a hold onto me. For now in your room you lay. Here come all those unknown doctors again. Why are they here and what are they doing? Just repeat the process as stated earlier. Throw them out if they are unrelated to your cause.
Here comes the bill, sixteen pages long. Tooth paste, tissues, socks, toilet paper, TV service, telephone charge, pills, IV medication, surgical suite, post surgical suite and many other things you cannot pronounce. If you are on Medicare the bill is probably fifty pages with hundreds of services you have no recollection about. Your doctor’s bills follow. Who are all these guys?
Both the hospital and your insurance company would like nothing better if they could force all doctors on the staff to participate. They cannot. The doctors are free to participate in network or not, as they choose. There are three specialties where there are always going to be more non-network participating doctors than participating ones; those of radiology, emergency room medicine, and anesthesia. Unlike such specialties as family medicine, dermatology, urology, general and plastic surgery, and so on, these three specialties will not have their “own” practices, but only have the patients that come to them through the hospital. Other specialists will have patients that are unrelated to the hospital; radiologists, anesthesiologists and emergency room specialist do not. As a result, these doctors lose money by participating on insurance networks. The insurance carrier has no responsibility to pay the entire bill of a non-participating provider. They are only responsible for paying what is in the policy. Fortunately they can’t seize your house for an unpaid medical bill. You can negotiate your payments to the hospital. You might even be able to lower the total cost. Give it a try, it doesn’t hurt. They will even take very low payments ( I won’t confess but I bet you can get away with a fin a week) but not so with doctors.
So the bottom line; check out all your doctors for in-network insurance participation, know your rights, ask questions, be demanding and assertive, never trust anything or anyone, don’t just take any test or procedure they suggest for granted and have an advocate (friend or relative) watch over the hospital process if you are unable. Follow these simple rules and your chances of getting killed during your hospital will be greatly diminished.