It’s that time of the year again – leftover turkey and stuffing for lunch at the office, crowded streets around the malls which make afternoon commutes even worse, and the constant bombardment of messages about the latest technology products (on sale). It is also a reminder about the time we get to spend together as families as well as the joyous celebrations of the holidays and their traditions.
Holidays also suggest that there are healthcare related implications too – let’s call it “end-of-the-year planning for healthcare”. Perhaps you might have already gone through your insurance coverage election period known as “Open Enrollment” at work already (these typically occur in the mid-Fall, prior to the holidays). If so, then you are ahead of the game. Although, you still might have some work to do for this year’s health insurance planning. For example, do you have a health FSA (health-related Flexible Spending Account), in which the funds accrued during the year also generally need to be spent during the same year (“use it or lose it”)? That, in turn, prompts a whole host of decisions – for example, do you have an elective surgery or procedure you need to take care of – and if so, does it make sense to do so (financial and otherwise) before the end of the year? (By the way, it’s best not to ask a seasoned surgeon who performs elective surgeries if he or she wants to go skiing during Christmas break, as typically this can be their busiest time of the year due to the aforementioned reasoning).
Perhaps you are also part of a health plan that rewards you and your plan participants for positive health behaviors, such as weight loss programs, exercise programs, behavior modification programs etc. In many plans, employers even offer financial benefits for participating in these programs, as it has been documented that a healthier employee is often more productive at work and helps reduce the out-of-pocket premium expenses for the employer. Even just a 30 minute walk during lunch over many days can lead to a healthier lifestyle as well as a financial reward.
In fact, tracking end-of-the-year planning has never been easier. Many insurers have mobile based applications (for Apple and Android devices) where you can view your personal health record, track your physical activity, find a physician or specialist who accepts your insurance provider, and even submit receipts electronically for reimbursements. You can effectively manage many of your healthcare plan requirements for you and your family plan participants from your mobile device – it really is amazing! Humana, Aetna, United Healthcare, and Coventry, for example, all have apps for smartphones and tablets which enable plan members to manage their health planning.
There have been many excellent blogs by my @healthflock peers about personal health responsibility and patient engagement. As the healthcare ecosystem continues to evolve, an underlying premise behind the paradigm shift to patient centered care is the fact that patients must take action and responsibility for their own healthcare decisions. Many of the technological components to do so are readily available, including patient portals, apps for smartphones, etc. I encourage you to take advantage of these resources. Download an app, log into your patient portal, and accrue any end-of-the-year exercise points that help you and your family live a healthier lifestyle!
Have a safe and joyous holiday season everyone!