Becoming an Active Health Care Participant

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This article was contributed by the Beneficiary and Family-Centered Care National Coordinating Center.

Being involved with one’s health care is more than about going to the doctor when one is not feeling well. We all need to take an active role in our care. This is especially important as people age. Older patients, including people with Medicare, can face many challenges that require support from friends, families and caregivers.

To encourage people with Medicare to become more involved in their care, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Quality Improvement Organization (QIO) Program’s Beneficiary and Family Centered Care-Quality Improvement Organizations (BFCC-QIOs) are working on person and family engagement projects.

For people with Medicare, being more involved can begin by taking advantage of the yearly wellness visit that is covered by Medicare. To get the most out of this check-up, people should think about what questions to ask their doctor, as well as any health concerns they have. If a patient does not speak up, the doctor may believe that no further information about an illness or medical condition is needed. Also, a doctor may not know what’s important to the patient.

The BFCC National Coordinating Center (BFCC-NCC) recently spoke with Massachusetts resident Garry Gleckel and Connecticut resident Mary Ann Murray to get their thoughts about person and family engagement. They are both members of the BFCC-NCC’s Beneficiary and Family Advisory Council (BFAC).

Gleckel provided support to his mother during an illness several years ago. He could see for himself that the health care industry was difficult to navigate, so he tried to help his mom understand her condition and the steps she needed to take for her overall health.

The health care and insurance systems can become increasingly complex as you grow older, and Gleckel says better support is needed to help people of age take on health challenges.

Having had some positive patient experiences himself, Gleckel wanted to give back to the health care community. He chose to become a member of a patient and family advisory council at a local hospital. Participation helps him be involved with health care at a local level.

The other BFAC member, Mary Ann Murray, works as the director of resident services at the Manchester Housing Authority. In her role, she provides information and resources to older adults (residents) who live in the housing authority’s properties. Murray aims to be an information source for residents, so she is always researching relevant information for them.

Murray’s personal experience with the local health care system occurred when her father was hospitalized in the intensive care unit. He underwent rehabilitation in a local skilled nursing facility, was discharged home and admitted to hospice care.

“I was fortunate to know the system through my work, but I often wondered what people do who do not have any health care knowledge and try to navigate it,” Murray said.

To address this challenge, BFCC-QIOs launched the Healthcare Navigation program to help people with Medicare coordinate their health care. The program provides Medicare patients and caregivers with resources, as well as support so that they better understand the health care system at large, as well as what care is needed and how to access it.

For further information, contact the BFCC-QIO in your state or territory