Be Informed

CHAUTAUQUA – If you want to know something, just ask.

That is a popular phrase used to teach people not to be intimidated by asking questions to anyone at anytime. This was also one of the main points from Dr. Christine K. Cassel, who spoke about health care Thursday at Chautauqua Institution’s Amphitheater.

Cassel, who is the president and chief executive officer of the National Quality Forum, spoke about choosing wisely when it comes to health care. The doctor said she wasn’t, at first, comfortable using the word ”consumer” for people when it comes to selecting health coverage. She said, however, the more and more she thinks about it, the more comfortable she is becoming with the term. She said taxpayers, employers and employees are all consumers when it comes to health care. She said when you see a doctor or a nurse, that is when the consumer becomes a patient.

”We are all consumers if you think about it,” she said. ”The role of the informed consumer and the informed patient is to ask questions.”

Cassel said the cost for the quality of health care in the United States is behind 19 other countries in the world. Not only do we pay more for health care, but we don’t live as long on average. She said money cannot buy longevity.

”We hope to make progress with the Affordable Care Act,” she said.

Cassel said one way to make progress is eliminating waste in the system. Waste items include: medical facilities failing to deliver quality services; failing to diagnose proper conditions; overtreatment; administrative complexities; pricing failures where different health care organizations charge different prices for the same procedures; and fraud and abuse.

”Experts believe higher quality care will come at a lower cost,” she said of when waste is eliminated.

She said one way to choose health care options wisely is through websites and apps that can help people instantly make informed decisions. As time passes, she said there will be more websites and apps to give people advice.

”All of us need to choose wisely,” she said.

One website where people can find information is choosingwisely.org. Cassel said Consumer Reports is also another reliable source for health coverage information. She said with Consumer Reports, not only can you find information about health care facilities, but they will provide you with questions you should be asking medical professionals. She said the questions include asking a doctor if a test is necessary or if the recommend procedure is correct. Also, she said don’t be afraid to get personal with a doctor. Ask them how many times they’ve done a procedure and their rate of complications. Cassel said health care coverage cost could be reduced if patients are more informed of their options.

”It empowers the patient to have a conversation with their doctor,” she said. ”You will not get answers unless you ask questions.”