Most financial writers, including me, counsel people to be their own advocate for less-expensive healthcare. We teach that you should question everything on your bill, know the limits and allowances of your health insurance policy, and negotiate prices where possible and look for lower cost options. All of this is great and can certainly save you some money. However, one of the best ways to save on your healthcare is also easy and within your control: Do what your doctor tells you to do.
I know many people whose doctors tell them to take certain medications, do certain exercises, or eat certain things and yet they won’t do them. Or they do them only halfway or only for a while and then stop. This is not going to cure or help you manage your condition. This is only going to result in more visits to the doctor, more prescriptions, and more health problems that never seem to go away. Granted, there might not be a complete cure for your medical problem, but your doctor is going to give you the best advice for how to manage and minimize that condition. Doing what he or she says is the path to wellness.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. I’m currently in physical therapy for a back/hip injury. The exercises are killer and harder than anything I’ve ever done and that includes running 39.3 miles over two days. They aren’t fun, but I’m doing them because it’s the only way I’m going to get better and avoid being on pain pills for the rest of my life. Yet the other day a woman on the treatment table next to mine was getting reamed out by her therapist for not doing her exercises. She’s been in therapy for months and is about to exhaust her insurance coverage. The therapist was telling her that she would be better by now if she’d do what she was told, but the woman says, “I’m always too busy and it’s hard.”
This woman’s insurance will run out and she’ll still be in pain and probably paying for pain medication to deal with her issues. In a few months or a year, she’ll probably be back in the doctor complaining of the same problem again. However, if she’d done what her therapist told her to do, she’d be fine and not have to pay any more money.
I know someone else who, without his doctors’ approval, started cutting his pills in half because, “I don’t need that much and it’s cheaper this way.” Yet he’s always in chronic pain and his condition never gets better. Hmmm. Maybe if he took the drug as directed, he wouldnâ€™t have a problem. This is also why some doctors use a drug testing service to make sure patients are taking their medication as prescribed.
Then there are the people who are told by medical professionals that their conditions can be managed or cured with some lifestyle changes such as more exercise, quitting smoking, or a specific diet. Yet they won’t make the changes. They’d rather head to the doctor every couple of months and take expensive medications and then wonder why their healthcare bills are soaring through the roof than eat better or go for a walk.
If you think your doctor is way off base with his orders, by all means get a second opinion. If you come across another treatment approach that you think might work just as well or better, by all means discuss it with your doctor. But if all the doctors say the same thing, you probably need to be obeying their orders.
Do what your doctors tell you to do. If you follow their orders exactly and you don’t get better, then it’s time for another conversation with the doctor or to find another one. But you’re never going to know if a treatment will work until you do what you’re told. If you don’t take your doctors’ advice, you won’t get better, or you might get better for a while but then relapse. You’ll have to make more visits to the doctor, outstrip your insurance coverage, and maybe stay on medications that you could have gotten off of if you’d done what you were supposed to do. Doctors aren’t infallible, but if you’re paying them for advice and help, doesn’t it make sense to take that advice and help and follow their instructions?
(Photo courtesy of Alex E. Proimos)