On Christmas Eve, I sat down to read a book—and in doing so, managed to tear my meniscus. I didn’t realize the extent of my injury, but for weeks afterward, I joked that it was the world’s first recorded instance of reading-induced knee pain.
A month later, I mentioned the pain to a chiropractor, Paul Fisher, DC MS, during an evaluation for my chronic headaches. He examined my knee and said he was concerned that I had torn my meniscus. He suggested that I get an MRI.
This is where my lessons in healthcare and marketing to millennials began, including what NOT to do. Here are 3 things I learned before the surgery.
1. When Marketing To Millennials, Be Upfront About Costs, Insurance—And Red Tape.
I called the imaging center and asked for a cost estimate for my MRI. The answer was not pretty: More than a month’s rent (keep in mind the cost of living in Chicago), since I hadn’t met my deductible. Ouch.
I thought I’d be clever and pay Dr. Fisher for 3 months of care in advance, which would meet the deductible. I could stand the pain for a couple of weeks while they processed my payment. Then, I could get the MRI and insurance would pay for it.
Here was the problem: Dr. Fisher’s office had to process my payments as services were delivered, not all at once. That meant it would still be a while before my deductible would be met. Fantastic.
So, I did the next best thing. After my first couple of payments were processed, I scheduled the MRI. I still paid a good amount of money for it, but it also helped me reach my deductible. Keep in mind, it was mid-February and I had been in pain for nearly 2 months. Money was taking a backseat to the urgent need for relief.
And when the MRI indicated a possible tear in my right meniscus, I called the orthopedic surgeon the very next day.
2. Please, Give Us A Single Point Of Contact.
At my appointment, I was introduced to both the surgeon, Gregory G. Markarian, MD, and an administrative staff member, Monica, who would be handling my case. This is what the system did right. It proved to be one of the most helpful aspects in coordinating my care from that point forward.
Whenever I had a question or update, I called the surgeon’s office and asked for Monica. She got the answers I needed. She even gave me her email address, so I could send her scans of paperwork without having to track down a fax machine, or find stamps and an envelope to snail-mail it. This was very much appreciated, given that I was hobbling around.
For instance, it was important to me that the surgery was done at a hospital that was 100% covered by my insurance. Unfortunately, this meant I would have to go to the suburbs, about an hour from my apartment. Because I don’t have a car—and couldn’t drive myself home afterward, anyway—this also meant my parents had to drive in for the surgery. (They live 7 hours away.)
These different factors made scheduling the surgery akin to putting together a jigsaw puzzle without any idea of what the final picture was supposed to look like. But Monica collaborated with Dr. Markarian and found ways to make it work. She was like a personal agent for healthcare. That’s the only way to go.
3. There’s No Such Thing As Getting Too Much Information Ahead Of Time.
It’s called front-loading, and it saves a ton of panic later.
Here was my little tangle of snafus: The surgery was scheduled for a Friday afternoon in early March.
All was well. But then …
I found out that I would have to fast for 12 hours before the surgery, since I was undergoing general anesthesia. I can barely fast 8 hours overnight for the blood draw at my annual physical without becoming lightheaded and nauseous. A daytime fast was out of the question.
With the surgery date only a week away, we scrambled to reschedule it for a morning appointment.
All was well again. But then …
I learned I had to find a physician to complete my medical clearance exam. But I didn’t have a primary care doctor at that time because my old physician didn’t accept my new insurance plan.
Finally, I tracked down a doctor and she signed off on the medical clearance. We got the surgery rescheduled for first thing in the morning on Monday of the following week.
All was well yet again. But then …
The Wednesday before surgery, I found out that I was supposed to have had blood work done during the clearance exam. No one had mentioned that, so it hadn’t happened. Now the surgery was up in the air once again.
I was ready to hang my head in despair. Fortunately, Dr. Markarian got wind of my panic and explained that the blood work could be done at the hospital the day of the surgery.
Everything was back on track. Would have been nice to arrange the whole thing up-front, though.
Details. We need details.