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Hacks for Health-Care Hassles

Managing health care for a family has never been more complicated — here’s how to streamline

Published on: May 11, 2020

pregnant woman on the couch looking at her cell phone smiling

Editor's note: This article was sponsored by Alto

Before the coronavirus crisis, managing health care for a family of four was already a full-time job for Tacoma mom Elizabeth — make that a second job, on top of her actual full-time job. Then came COVID-19 health concerns, social distancing and home-based schooling. 

“Between me and the kids, we deal with psoriatic arthritis, osteoarthritis, psoriasis, repeated ear surgeries with a drum that won’t heal, dental challenges, allergies and asthma,” she says. “I use a paper calendar to keep everything straight. I’m super swamped, and now I’m worried about immune health on top of everything.”

Keeping up with a family’s health-care needs has never been easy. In 2020, it feels like game of whack-a-mole at warp speed. The following health-care hacks can help.

Streamline the Rx process

Think a drive-through pharmacy is the ultimate in convenience? Think again. Alto, a new courier pharmacy service in Bellevue, can handle an entire family’s medication needs, subtracting one errand from your to-do list without adding to the cost of medications. “Alto makes getting medications much easier than you’re used to. You don’t have to wait in line or make a second trip after you find out your prescription isn’t ready,” says Betty Cheung, pharmacist in charge at Alto Pharmacy – Seattle. “Our team can package all of your medications for your family members into one delivery — kids, spouses, even elderly parents — and we help you manage refills automatically. You’re already handling soccer practice, homework and dinner prep, so we’ll bring your medications right to you.”

In a time when limiting errands out of the house to the absolute minimum is mandated, Alto’s free, same-day courier delivery of medications and cold and flu treatments is exactly the kind of safe and convenient service families need right now. “It keeps me at home, eliminates an errand, and the couriers use a no-contact delivery process to keep everyone safe,” says Cheung. “Customers can track the courier in real time, so there’s no question about when medications have arrived. Alto’s been providing this type of home delivery for years now in California. I’m so glad that we’re now able to offer this safer option in Seattle.”

Consider a family practitioner

A typical family might see a handful of health-care providers — a pediatrician or two, an OB-GYN and a primary care physician — for general wellness checkups. That makes for lots of contact information to keep track of, especially when someone gets sick or needs a quick consultation. If you want to simplify your family’s care or are in the market for a new provider, consider moving everyone to one family practitioner, or to a single family practice office.

Family practice physicians or advanced practice providers, such as advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), can often care for an entire family, including infants and children, provide prenatal care and refer patients to specialists as needed. A bonus: Family practice exam rooms and waiting rooms are often set up with young patients in mind, so you can bring your kids to your appointments without worrying about disturbing a more subdued adults-only clinic.  

Get coverage

Health insurance is more important than ever. To extend coverage to more Washingtonians in 2020, Washington Healthplanfinder has extended enrollment for people impacted by COVID-19. A navigator or broker is a free, independent resource who can help you find, compare and enroll in a health plan from home (find a broker here). A broker can also help you learn more about tax credits that can help reduce your out-of-pocket insurance costs; last year’s eligible enrollees received an average of $295 in tax credits.

Compare costs for procedures

Health care is complicated enough without wondering whether you’re overpaying for a test or procedure. If you have questions about the cost of a recommended surgery or lab test, calling your insurance provider is a good place to start. New online tools can offer additional insight into how much you can expect to pay for your family’s health care. Healthcare Bluebook offers a suggested price for procedures; Change Healthcare provides estimates for the cost of medical procedures based on health-care claims data; and New Choice Health gives providers’ prices sourced from Medicare.

Keep up with preventive care

Don’t let the chaos of family life or fears about the coronavirus delay preventive care. Preventable illnesses account for 75 percent of Americans’ health-care spending, so getting vaccinated and staying up to date on recommended screenings can save time and money down the road. If you have more than one child, consider scheduling everyone’s annual physical exam and flu shot on the same day — there’s no rule that says kids need to have their wellness checkups at the beginning of the school year or around their birthdays.

Reduce paperwork

Clearing up the stacks in your mailbox or on the countertop may help clear some headspace. In less than 10 minutes, you can call your providers or go online and request paperless billing to eliminate pesky paper bills. While you’re at it, enroll in Washington MyIR to view, print and send your family members’ immunization records securely without leaving home. Free apps like Capzule and Apple’s Health Records are two options in an emerging field of health apps that compile health records, test results and patient-provider communication in one place. Here’s to a neater file cabinet, an end to urgent last-minute searches for important medical paperwork — and a few moments of well-deserved calm during this crazy year.

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