When you're as active as our family, navigating health care can be a bit daunting. There's been more than one occasion when we've been on the road and one of the kids has started hacking up their lungs or developed a weird skin thing or a mysterious pain.
“Oh God,” I mutter. “Just two more days. We'll be home to their primary doctor in two more days.”
Stars and schedules don't always align, though, and we've learned to navigate the system and know where to go in the midst of chaos and uncertain timing. Here are the care options that you should know about.
Navigating Health Care: 6 Resources
NurseLine. A lot of insurance companies now have a free call-in number to speak with a registered nurse who can help you with navigating health care. Not sure if what you're experiencing is urgent or no big deal? This is the way to go before spending a ton of time in an office. Nurses can suggest at-home or over-the-counter remedies, give you warning signs to look out for if you're experiencing a progressive problem, and help direct you to the right care and schedule appointments if you need to be seen.
Primary Care Doctor. We have a great relationship with our primary care doctor, and he's our go-to when we need any sort of routine or preventive care. He knows our family's entire medical history, and can make personalized recommendations based on each person's individual needs.
Virtual Visit. We love virtual visits for things like pinkeye, allergies, fevers and rashes. This is our go-to for times when we're feeling too under-the-weather to get into an office but need advice or a prescription to nip this in the bud STAT.
Convenience Care Clinic. This is a relatively new trend in health care that has been an absolute lifesaver for us while on vacation. These drop-in clinics are usually located in stores such as CVS, Walgreens and Target and are able to help with problems that are minor or common but are better off being addressed as early as possible (things like ear infections, sinus infections, strep throat, colds and strains). Some can even provide flu shots or treatment for urinary tract infections. They contract with major insurance companies to help get you in and out and back on your way with limited wait times – and limited fees.
Urgent Care. We head to urgent care for issues that definitely require hands-on care, but can't wait for an appointment with our primary doctor and aren't truly emergency room level problems. Things like painful sprains, minor broken bones (like the two times I broke my pinky toe and could walk but – ouch!) and burns that need treatment but aren't really severe.
Emergency Room. Situations can go from bad-to-worse quickly, and I think a lot of parents are often hesitant to go to the emergency room because they don't know if their issue qualifies as a true “emergency.” As Nate and I have experienced first-hand, it's especially different with babies and small children who can't communicate the severity of their struggle. If you are experiencing heavy bleeding, chest pain, shortness of breath or have been severely burned…just GO. Every second can make a difference.
Insurance company apps can be another resource for navigating health care and locating the correct provider. We're still working with UnitedHealthcare, and their Health4Me app makes it super-easy to communicate with providers, access prescription information, and figure out what action to take in your unique health situation. They even have an Easy Connect service that will call YOU with answers so you don't have to wait on hold.
How do you go about navigating health care?