Health insurers regularly conduct surveys of their Medicare members to learn about their relationship with their health care providers and the conversations they have (or don’t have) about topics that aren’t always easy to discuss. Problems with memory, the risk of falling, bladder control, and mental health issues are uncomfortable subjects many people often avoid when face-to-face with their health care provider but will readily acknowledge when completing an anonymous survey.
Health plans look for common themes in the survey results and share the findings with health care providers to help them understand the needs of their Medicare patients and encourage conversations about these concerns.
“Patients shouldn’t just rely on their health care providers to ask about these topics,” advises Ankit Garg, MD, vice president of medical affairs at Univera Healthcare. “They should come to their medical appointments ready to have open and honest conversations about their health, including issues that accompany the aging process that may be uncomfortable.”
The following are topics from which many patients shy away and opt instead to let their provider take the lead.
Memory changes and dementia are common fears people have as they get older. However, there’s a difference between memory changes that happen with aging and those that are a result of dementia. An early evaluation can help diagnose and treat these issues. Patients need to be honest with their providers about any memory issues they may be experiencing.
Falls can lead to serious injury, loss of the ability to live independently, and even death. There are many reasons for falls, so it’s important to have an open conversation with your doctor about falls and ways to prevent them. Tell your doctor of any concerns you have about being lightheaded or dizzy as well as any weakness in your body. If you’re unsteady on your feet or have experienced a fall, don’t hide that from your provider. Let them know.
If you are unable to get to the bathroom in time or are using incontinence products, the problem won’t go away on its own. If left untreated, it may get worse. This is an uncomfortable topic, to be sure. But, if you’re open and honest with your provider, they can figure out what’s causing your symptoms, discuss treatment options, and refer to specialists, if needed.
Do you have feeling of loneliness or are you having other troubles with thinking and emotions? Tell your provider everything you can, including symptoms that you think might not be related to mental health. View the exam room as a safe place to speak honestly about what you are feeling and experiencing, so that your provider can guide you to appropriate resources and treatment.
Univera Healthcare is a nonprofit health plan that serves members across the eight counties of Western New York. With more than 500 Buffalo-based employees and a local leadership team, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members. It also encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. Univera is part of a Rochester-based health insurer that serves more than 1.5 million members across upstate New York. Its mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care, and its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine. To learn more, visit UniveraHealthcare.com.