Ahh, a new year… all those medical forms… we fill them out every year… the admin side of chronic illness can be maddening!
So we’re gonna take a look at a side of chronic illness no one really talks about. That undercurrent that runs underneath, or sometimes alongside, everything else we have to do. We’re going to address the admin side of being sick, the “business” side of the journey. Even if you’re laid up in the ER or ICU, the paperwork still has to be addressed, right? The admin stuff still must be done. Yes, the undercurrent still flows.
Been there, anyone ???
There are plenty of things to make sure we DO when dealing with a chronic diagnosis. But I want to start a little bit differently. Let’s jump right in with 3 things to absolutely avoid when dealing with the admin side – the underside – of a chronic illness journey.
Here are 3 administrative things to avoid when dealing with the admin side of the journey:
1. Avoid the mindset of "My doctor's office handles this for me."
Friends – do not take this approach. It doesn’t work.
I can’t stress this enough. The admin side of chronic illness is so complicated with medical necessity this and prior approval that, and Heaven only knows what else, that it’s no wonder there are errors, omissions, problems with payments, delays. Who can keep up with it?? Often we assign all the admin tasks to the doctor’s office because we don’t understand how it all works, or we don’t know how to answer the questions or have the conversations with the insurance company. Even if our doctor’s office personnel should handle everything with absolutely no input needed from us ever, here’s a revelation for us:
Our admin team is human and they will make some honest mistakes.
The admin side of a chronic journey is simply too much for one person, or even one office. Almost assuredly, you have more than one physician on your team, and it takes an entire team to pull off coordination of all the moving parts. While “they handle that for me” may rightly apply to steps here and there along the way, and while it allows us to dodge being swept up in the business yuck of being sick, taking a completely hands-off approach is neither smart nor effective. It can leave us with issues that, in the end, demand our involvement anyway but by now, it’s really messy and everyone’s frustrated.
2. Don't overlook social workers and office managers
Hands down, one of the most often overlooked assets for anyone on a chronic illness journey is that of the social worker and office manager, or practice manager. I promise you, these are some of the hardest working, sympathetic, on-your-side members of your team. For six years now, I’ve dealt consistently with a team of 6 or 7 different specialist offices, and they all have their own social workers and practice managers. I have yet to encounter a single one who wasn’t FOR me, who didn’t honestly and genuinely want to help me succeed. These smart, intuitive, well-educated folks are happy to answer all of our questions. They are well-versed in the intricacies of insurance, financial assistance, scheduling, transportation – you name it, they’ve probably dealt with it before. If they don’t readily know the answer, they’ll track it down. I’m very fortunate, in that my social worker and main office managers (2 of them) can sense now when I’m a bit aggravated at the system, frustrated with the process, or just plain weary in the walk, and they extend a hand of kindness to help me settle down and decompress to gently get us back to the issues we need to resolve. These gals have even prayed with me. On more than one occasion. I love these people, and I can’t imagine doing “sick” without their help.
Ask your doctor or nurse if there is a social worker or office manager on staff. You might use the term “practice manager.” Ask for their names, contact information, etc. Send them an email to introduce yourself with a brief (very brief) summary of your illness and how you deal with it. They might find it useful to know your biggest frustration, or the thing you need help with the most. They will help you, I promise. Make it your business to engage these care providers and establish a relationship with them. You will thank me for this.
3. Avoid getting stuck in "overwhelm" about insurance issues.
Every doctor’s office or lab or outpatient facility wants asap answers to their questions, and they often don’t keep in mind that they are one of ten different facilities wanting your attention and brain power. They call when they have time. Or when it’s on their mind. It’s not unusual to get insurance calls every single day of the week most weeks. It’s easy to fall in to “overwhelm” when we spend more time dealing with insurance than we trying to stay healthy and heal from our disease.
Here’s a game-changer: Just because the phone rings doesn’t mean you have to answer it. Same thing for mail. And email.
As urgent as the paperwork seems, it does not trump the focus on our health. This seems like a given, but it’s true, we can get lost and overwhelmed in insurance snafu’s to the point of it absolutely over-taking our week. Sometimes it’s hard to be the patient for dealing with all this stuff.
Am I the only one ???
So here’s what we do. We isolate the fire. We assign a day (plus a back-up day when needed) each week to deal with insurance issues. I chose Tuesday and Thursday (backup day), plus emergencies as they arise, which they do sometimes but not very often. Most of this stuff can wait a day or two and the earth won’t stop spinning, nor will our treatment be interrupted. It’s true that 95% of all this admin/insurance stuff really isn’t an emergency that must be answered same-day or even next-day. It can wait until Tuesday. Or Thursday. Of course, there’s always the infrequent call-them-sooner-than-later that will pull you off your schedule, but this is rare. Really rare.
It is absolutely okay to protect some days from having to deal with insurance and other “business” issues regarding our diagnoses and chronic path. In fact, it’s healthy, not just for us but for the ones around us because we’re nicer, we feel better, and we focus on our health first. We can be in the driver’s seat on this and refuse to let things consume our entire week. This is not only good-idea stuff, it’s a matter of survival sometimes.
As we head into the new year, making adjustments in these areas will put us ahead of the game. Hopefully avoiding these 3 things will go a long way to help us win over chronic and find more joy along the way!
Blessings, my fellow warriors –
Disclaimer: Information contained in this website is intended for educational purposes. It is not meant to replace your healthcare team nor as medical advice. Please contact your physician or medical professional before making any changes to your current care plan, diet, or exercise routine