Excellus BlueCross BlueShield regularly conducts health outcome surveys of a random sampling of its Medicare members to learn about their relationship with their health care providers and the conversations they have (or don’t have) about topics including their risk of falling, level of physical activity, mental health and memory, and bladder control issues. These are concerns for many individuals ages 65 and older, and they aren’t always easy to discuss.
Excellus BCBS analyzes the survey results to find common themes, and then shares the findings with health care providers to help them better understand and address the needs of their Medicare patients and encourage conversations about these concerns. Patient education and having an open and honest patient/provider dialogue is an important step in addressing health issues that accompany the aging process.
“While it is important for health care providers to be reminded to have these conversations, it is equally important for patients to come to their medical visits prepared to discuss issues and concerns that are impacting their overall health status,” says Ankit Garg, MD, vice president medical affairs of retail markets at Excellus BCBS.
The following conversation prompts will help patients get the most benefit from their medical visits:
- Mental Health: 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.
- Incontinence: 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. Your provider can figure out what’s causing your symptoms, discuss treatment options, and refer to specialists, if needed.
- Falls: Falls can lead to serious injury, disability, and even death. There are many reasons for falls, so it’s important to have an open conversation with your doctor about it and talk about how to prevent falls from happening in the future. Tell your doctor of any concerns you have about being lightheaded or dizzy as well as any weakness in your body.
- Memory: 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.
- Physical Activity: Physical activity doesn’t only mean exercise — anything that gets you moving can improve your health. Being active can give you more energy and strength to do daily activities, help you sleep, and improve your mood. Prior to beginning an exercise program, talk to your doctor about the kind of physical activity that’s right for you.