Navigating the Healthcare Maze
Every couple of weeks, I get a call from a friend, neighbor, family member, colleague or friend of a friend, asking me to help them navigate the healthcare system. Often, the questions follow a diagnosis of cancer or another serious and traumatic illness.
People want to know who they should see, how they might go about getting a second opinion, and, more often than you might guess, what they can do if their physician will not listen to them.
In addition to being burdened and scared by a health crisis, they are often bewildered. Unfortunately, it doesn't get easier. Once they start seeing specialists, they can't understand why one provider doesn't communicate with another and why on every visit, they are asked the same questions about their past medical history.
Recently, many of these calls seem to be about health insurance. Many are from parents who are terrified that their adult children are without insurance, either because they are unemployed or employed by a provider who doesn't offer insurance or other benefits.
A couple of weeks ago, I was stunned when an 11-year old told me that he was worried about his mother because she didn't have health insurance! He and his sister are covered under their father's plan, but he wondered what would happen if his mom got sick. The question honestly made me heartsick, that a child needs to worry about how his mother might access what the rest of the world considers a basic human right. The child told me, "It just doesn't seem fair."
While there is much that people can do to improve their health and wellbeing by exercising, sleeping 7-8 hours a night, eating healthy foods, cultivating meaningful relationships, and managing their stress, inevitably, at some point, they are likely going to need to enter the healthcare maze.
At the University of Minnesota's Center for Spirituality & Healing, we are committed to helping people become more informed healthcare consumers and patients. But I am curious: How can we best help people navigate what is called a healthcare system, but would more aptly be described as a maze?
We are constantly updating information on this website and I would welcome hearing from you:
- What questions do you have that are not addressed?
- What tips would you offer someone struggling to find the right care?
- What about people who can't "take charge" of their health?
- Are there resources that we should point people to or that you think we should be developing?
- If there was an ideal toolkit that included within it everything that a consumer needs to know to manage a health crisis or improve their overall health, what would be in the toolkit?
I truly welcome your comments and stories. As in Washington, we need your ideas and collaboration to create a system - not a maze - that works for us all.