When it comes to health care, money is always an issue. Let’s face it. Health care is expensive. Whether you’re paying high premiums for insurance, high deductibles to get lower premiums or you’re paying out of pocket for care that your insurance doesn’t cover, it all adds up. So it may seem like having more money means your health will be better just because you can afford to pay more for health care.
In my experience, the opposite is often true. Why? Let’s start with what happened to me.
When I had my hysterectomy, my health tanked. My hormones were gone and my entire body felt like it was falling apart. I didn’t know what to do.
But I was fortunate (I thought!) that I had money to spend looking for the best health care. So I travelled around the country to nine different doctors looking for the answer. I ended up over-medicated and sicker than when I started after the wrong medications burned out my thyroid.
The problem wasn’t that I didn’t have money to spend on health care. It was that I didn’t know what questions to ask to get the right health care.
Here’s another example. When someone with extra money gets diagnosed with a major illness – say, cancer – he or she often seeks what I call “destination care.” That means traveling away from home to a cancer center or hospital that claims to specialize in treating cancer.
The problem is, it doesn’t take any real expertise to claim to be an expert. It just takes a good marketing team. So any hospital that treats cancer can claim to be a cancer specialist.
Don’t get me wrong. There are some excellent facilities that are experts in cancer care including the Mayo Clinic, MD Anderson and the Cleveland Clinic, just to name a few.
My point is that if you have a specific diagnosis, you need to look for a treatment center that specializes in treating that exact illness. Cancer is a very generic term. So a facility that excels at treating ovarian cancer may not be up to date on the best treatments for lung cancer, and vice versa.
Another factor to consider is how rare your condition is. The rarer the disease, the trickier the treatments are likely to be and the more important it is to find someone who really has treated that exact condition. And remember, one success story or one patient treated does not make anyone an expert!
The key is to do your own research before you make a life-altering decision like picking a treatment facility for a major disease. It’s not just a matter of getting treatment quickly. With some conditions like cancer, getting the wrong treatment can make your condition worse instead of better.
Here are some questions that can help you narrow down your choices to find the right doctor for you:
- Do you specialize in this exact condition?
- How many patients per day do you see for this condition?
- How many success stories have you had treating this condition? How many total patients have you treated for this disease?
- What is the life expectancy for this disease?
Notice, I’m not telling you the “right” answer to any of those questions. You need to decide whether you are satisfied with the answers you get. And that includes the life expectancy for your condition. That’s a tough one. But you need to know what the doctor believes your outcome will be in order to make the best treatment decisions.
Now here’s where the money issue comes back in. In my experience, wealthier people are more likely to go for destination treatments for their health care than people with limited resources. Let’s face it – if you’re struggling to pay your insurance premiums, you’re not likely to hop on a plane to chase down the latest trend or treatment option.
That’s partly why I say money can’t buy good health. When money is less of an issue it may be easier to hop from treatment option to treatment option, randomly hoping to land on a good one. But random chance or trying one of everything in the hope something will work is not the best way to take care of your health!
Celebrity treatments also fall into this category for me. Just because you read that a celebrity tried a supplement or went to a specific doctor or facility doesn’t mean that same thing will be right for you.
Let’s bring that closer to home. Just because your cousin or aunt or best friend went to a specific facility to treat her breast cancer does not mean you should go there for your skin cancer. When you think about it, it’s not even logical. But people do it just because the name is familiar or someone they know says they should go there.
Now this is where EmpowHER is on your side. We have resources to help you find answers to medical questions. That’s what our ASK section is all about. If you have a rare condition or you just don’t know where to start looking for the best treatment, ASK us. We can help point you in a direction that will get you the information you need to make your own best decisions.
Your own doctor who made the initial diagnosis is another excellent resource. Talk to him or her about your condition and ask for recommendations for treatment of your specific disease.
In the end, the real issue isn’t money or whether you choose to travel for treatment or choose a facility or doctor in your own neighborhood. Do your research, find a doctor you trust and don’t hesitate to get a second opinion to solidify your plan. Then move forward knowing you’ve made the best decision to get care that is right for you and your family.