Recently, a patient’s loved one lashed out at me after I had given them a devastating cancer diagnosis. While it’s never easy to be on the receiving end, I have experienced similar outbursts when I lost my parents and I know these emotions are a result of immense fear, stress, and love. As if the diagnosis wasn’t enough, this family also had a stressful time getting in to be seen and navigating the end-of-year rush in healthcare. For both patients and healthcare workers, this time of year can be extremely challenging. It’s important to be aware of what happens at the end of the year in healthcare so you have a better understanding and can take some actions to have a better experience.
Why is there an End-of-Year Rush?
The end of the year is the busiest time for physicians, especially surgeons like myself. There is a surge in activity as people rush to schedule end-of-year procedures to meet deductibles. Unfortunately, many people wait or put off procedures and then try to get it taken care of before their insurance deductibles reset next year. This creates a lot of obstacles and stress in the healthcare field.
It’s also the time of the year when we tend to see the sickest patients. Hospitals tend to be full of patients sick with the flu or other respiratory viruses that go around at this time of the year. Post-COVID we still see hospitals are understaffed. The flu season strains already limited resources, making it a challenging time for patients and healthcare providers.
Tips for Navigating the End-of-Year Healthcare Rush
It is so important to navigate this end-of-year rush effectively. Here are some tips to ease the experience if you find yourself or loved one needing care at this time:
Seek an Empathetic and Honest Physician
When you’re looking for your physician, look for one that is emphatic, honest, and understands that this time of the year is challenging for everyone. Learn to be accepting and understanding as a patient. I truly believe everyone in healthcare is here because they want to help people. You also want to ensure your physician can be honest with you.
Verify Insurance Coverage
Check your insurance coverage and deductible status before scheduling appointments. Contact your insurance provider to understand your benefits and any changes that may occur at the start of the new year.
Be understanding that while hospitals strive to provide the best care, the large amount of patients and complexities can lead to delays. Being patient can help better your own experience especially with delays and tight schedules. Bring things to do to help time pass if there are longer waits.
Plan Ahead for Appointments
Schedule routine check-ups and elective procedures earlier in the year to avoid the year-end rush. Schedule preventative screenings, like mammograms or colonoscopies, in advance to prepare for any potential issues.
Utilize Telehealth or Urgent Care
Explore telehealth options for non-emergency consultations or follow-up appointments. Telehealth can be a convenient way to address healthcare needs without needing in-person visits. Consider Urgent Care for minor issues to alleviate any pressure on emergency rooms.
Be prepared with questions and bring a loved one along for another set of ears. Download my guide to help you make the most of your appointment. and to ask questions you may not think of. If you are having surgery, here are some important questions to ask your surgeon.
We’re In This Together
We’re in this together. As a patient, you are not alone. All of us, physicians, surgeons, nurses, and healthcare workers, truly understand the struggle and want to provide the best care possible. Navigating the end-of-year rush in healthcare with patients requires patience from all of us. Hopefully these tips provide some care beyond the visit to make for a better experience.