Health-related matters take up 2% of all queries on the search engines, so its not surprising that there are a variety of internet-related ailments that can result out of accessing health web-sites! (No prizes for guessing the most common topic on search engines on the Net).
Here’s the low-down on the most common internet-caused afflictions:
Cyberchondria (aka internet self-diagnosis) is another condition first coined in 2000 and refers to the practice of leaping to dire conclusions while researching health matters online. If that severe headache haunting you in the morning led you to the Web search-engine and convinced you that it is caused by a brain tumour, then the likely diagnosis is probably cyberchondria. People tend to look at the first few results in the search-engine and that froms the basis for them to probe further. For instance, a search on ‘headaches’ could lead to ‘brain tumours’ or ‘meningitis’. The phenomenon has become so pervasive that Microsoft did its own study on the causes of cyberchondria (see here).
Here’s some friendly advice: It takes years of medical training to adequately decipher fully what’s found on web health-sites and to full appreciate its implications. While its good for people to know what’s going on in their body, make sure you look at reputable sites only and even then, look at them after your doctor has told you what you have .This will give you a reasonable launching pad to look at the likely possibilities of what condition you may have ( what doctors call differential diagnoses).
There may be economic recession, but healthcare inflation goes on unbridled, with annual inflationary rates in excess of 10%! Often, I’ve been asked how to reduce medical bills once they are incurred. Of course, the best method is prevention. The next? Getting a good healthcare insurance cover (click here to know more).
But what happens when you’ve already incurred the bills? Here’s some pointers:
1.Choose when to be hospitalised – emergencies aside, its better to be admitted during office-hours and during weekdays. Why? Because many hospitals cut off ‘non-essential services’ after office-hours. You’ll be hard-pressed to find dieticians , physiotherapists and some specialists on weekends. It may seem unfair, but hospitals do charge an ‘overtime fee’ or surcharge if services are provided after office-hours.
2. Review the bill – go through the charges. Are they accurate? Extra charges and miscoding can occur, intentional or otherwise. If there are disputes, hospitals have standard grievance procedures (more of this in a future blog article) where such disputes may be resolved.
3. Negotiate – everything is negotiable. Talk to the service provider to see if they will offer a discount for the various items charged on the bill, especially if you’re paying out of pocket. Some hospitals have provision for a discount – if you ask for it.
4. Ask for a payment plan – if you cannot pay in a lump sum, ask for instalments. Some hospitals will allow this, at no interest charge. Put it in writing and if you cannot keep to the schedule, re-negotiate.
5. Charity begins not at home – many not-for-profit hospitals have a subsidy program or a foundation which will pay or subsidise for deserving cases. You will be interviewed by a financial counsellor who willmassess whether you deserve one. Such programs are understandably poorly publicised, so do not be afraid to ask.
6. Seek out support groups – especially cancer support groups. They will be well-placed to advise on charities or foundations who might be able to access funds.
7. Government assistance programs – many pension or annuity schemes will allow withdrawal for payments of critical illnesses. Yes, it will dwindle your savings, but at least you will not be deprived of adequate medical care.
- Personal Health: Put Your Hospital Bills Under a Microscope (nytimes.com)
- Six Ways to Save Money on Your Health Care Costs (socyberty.com)
- Finding Errors in the Hospital Bill (well.blogs.nytimes.com)
Some readers of this blog asked what they can do to prevent a stroke from hitting them. Plenty! A very recent research study just released in the British Medical Journal by 4 authors, one of whom is a Malaysian classmate of mine who now works in the UK, reveals 4 things that people can do to reduce the chances of getting a stroke by half.
The study, conducted in England involving 20,000 people over 11 years, showed that they could reduce the chances of getting stroke by 50% if they did all the following life-style measures:
- not smoking
- being physically active
- limiting their alcohol intake to not more than 14 units a week
- fruit and vegetable intake of at least five servings a day.
Apart from the above, it is well-known that the presence of the following risk-factors also predispose to stroke: high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation (irregular heart-beats), heart disease and certain blood diseases which cause clotting.
One does need to realise, however, that some risk-factors cannot be changed or eliminated. Try changing your age (the chance of having a stroke approximately doubles for each decade of life after age 55), sex (more common in men), your relatives( your stroke risk is greater if a parent, grandparent, sister or brother has had a stroke) or the fact that you have had a previous stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA, or warning strokes)!
The whole idea of getting away from stroke is to eliminate as many of the above risk-factors as possible and to lead a healthy lifestyle.
See my related article “Mending A Stroke In Time”.
- HealthWatch: New Blood Thinning Drug (newyork.cbslocal.com)