You hear crying on the baby monitor or from the bassinet across the room. You look at the clock. It’s 2 a.m. You drowsily rise, expecting a routine diaper change or unscheduled feeding, but when you lift your infant, she’s burning up. You take her temperature. 100.8.
Where do you turn, at this hour, for medical help or advice—is she teething or is she sick?
Does she need care now, or can you wait until her pediatrician’s office opens?
What do you do next?
You may not realize it, but your options today far outweigh what they might have been just five to ten years ago.
Online Health & Wellness Articles
Did you know 1 in 20 Google searches are for health-related information? It should come as no surprise, then, that many health consumers—in this case, moms or dads—whip out their smartphones in these scenarios and turn to Google, WebMD, or sites like BabyCenter.
We live in the age of the empowered patient, when each of us is our own best advocate, and we must be informed throughout the continuum of care—before, during, and after we step foot in the exam room. The truth is, in today’s digital age, people don’t simply read the articles on these sites; they read the comments voraciously for advice from others who have been in their positions. They reach out for community in many ways, often over the Internet. That’s why it’s critical, if you do use the Internet as your nurse, to ensure your sources are trustworthy.
You may have used telehealth services and not even realized it. It’s a buzzword in the health IT industry, an expanding platform for cost savings and extended clinical reach, but for health consumers it’s often a phone number on the back of your insurance card in the form of a 24/7 nurse line:
You can often call a toll-free nurse line for triage over the phone and for advice as to whether your condition can be treated at home, can wait for your primary care physician to provide an exam, whether you should call poison control, or whether you should go to the emergency room.
If nothing else, these nurse lines—which are usually staffed by registered nurses (but not licensed nurse practitioners or physicians)—can often provide peace of mind during moments of panic and what to do next.
You’ve decided to take your child to the emergency room. In some areas, hospital networks display ER wait times on billboards. These wait times often spike when physician offices, urgent care centers, and now retail clinics are closed.
Make sure you provide the registration nurse with accurate demographic information so the hospital knows where to send any outstanding balance. Additionally, 47% of payment denials from insurance companies are related to registration errors such as a non-eligible status, wrong payer, no authorization or pre-certification, etc., according to Hospital Financial Management Association. Again, make sure the paperwork is completed accurately and thoroughly.
Finally, if you’re a self-pay patient who might have trouble paying the bill, ask about government assistance or any charity care policies the hospital might offer. Because self-pay accounts comprise more than 5% of a hospital’s total gross revenue, according to Hospital Accounts Receivable Analysis, their financial counselors will be more open to having this conversation up-front and might help offset the cost of care for you.
No parent wants to see those thermometer numbers break 99.0, but when it happens, it can come at any time. Fever doesn’t respect the clock. Fortunately, as healthcare continues to move toward consumerism, parents in this situation have more options now than ever before.
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.