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Deductible December

December is officially upon us and with December is the realization that there is only a month left until a lot of insurance deductibles reset. This realization is often a catalyst to ‘finally’ get those health maintenance tasks or elective surgical procedures done before the end of the month but make sure to do due diligence when deciding what to pursue in Deductible December.

December does serve as a great reminder to put aside procrastination and get things scheduled. Health maintenance items should always be tended to yearly. Annual visits with a clinician should include a plan about which lab tests, cancer screenings, and procedures should be scheduled in the next couple of years. There are careful guidelines about when certain diagnostics should be used for health maintenance and/or screening for concerning conditions. Often these run-of-the-mill medical encounters are put off because the average individual doesn’t realize the power of prevention. It’s far too easy to put that scheduling call off ‘till tomorrow and then have tomorrow turn in to next year. Ask any healthcare professional (or better yet someone who has been through a rough health condition) and they will assure you that prevention is always easier and better than treatment, if at all possible. Bottom line: don’t put off the little things and let them turn into big things. Ask your practitioner what you should be looking to schedule next year and get it done before December 2024.

But what about scheduling more invasive medical visits like surgery? Perhaps a surgeon recommended surgery at some point this year and December has kindly reminded you that maybe you should get that done before the end of the year. This is really where due diligence comes in as surgery is a decision that should not be taken lightly.

Elective surgery is a procedure that treats conditions that do not pose a risk to a patient life or limb. A semi-elective procedure treats conditions that, if left untreated, would continue to worsen to the point of compromising quality of life or even progress to a life-threatening situation. Depending on how quickly that condition is expected to worsen, the surgery may be classified as urgent rather than semi-elective. Emergent surgeries are those that need to be performed within minutes to a few hours in order to safe a life or a limb.

There is a wide spectrum of omplexity within the surgery world. There are procedures ranging from skin biopsies to gallbladder removals, kidney stone obliteration to brain aneurysm coiling, eyelid repair to major vessel stenting. Each surgery requires widely different skills, knowledge, and technique. And so, each surgery requires a good long chat with your provider to make sure you understand:

1.) What will be done.

2.) The alternatives to surgery.

3.) The most common side effects or complications of the procedure.

4.) Recovery time.

1. What will be done. Ask your surgeon the name of the procedure. This not only helps educate you but helps you inform other care providers later in your healthcare journey. Ask the surgeon what exactly will be done and the main tasks to be accomplished during the procedure. You should not seek to understand all the nuances of a highly technical surgery but your surgeon should be able to communicate the highlights of the technique in simple terms. Ask about pain control and anesthesia. There are quite a few options for pain control and anesthesia in a 21st century operating room. Ask what your options are and what usually works well for other patients who have been through the same process.

2. The alternatives to surgery. Elective surgery almost always has some sort of alternative. Sometimes these alternatives cannot provide relief from pain, improve quality of life, or prevent a condition from getting worse as well as surgical treatment can. But sometimes patients are able to find success with alternatives such as medications, physical therapy, or lifestyle alterations and are able to avoid or delay an elective procedure. Ask specifically what the expected outcome would be with each of the alternatives and if there are risks in delaying (or avoiding) the procedure.

3. The most common side effects and complications. All surgeries have a long list of fairly alarming risks. The weight of these risks varies greatly by patient and procedure. Ask what your specific risks are and how likely those risks are. Experienced surgeons will be able to give you an idea of the major concerns about your specific situation. They will also be able to inform you of what side effects can be expected afterwards: incision tenderness, sore throat, muscle cramping, nausea, and constipation are common depending on the situation. This conversation should include questions about any necessary permanent lifestyle changes once the acute recovery period is over.

4. Recovery time. Many surgeries require a period of rest and recuperation. This may include: restrictions on lifting anything heavy, restrictions on driving, increased need for rest, care of dressings, managing medications at home, physical therapy, general activity limitations, or a possible stay in the hospital. Ask specifically about recovery requirements and make sure you have the time and help to abide by recovery guidelines. Not respecting recovery orders often times makes things worse and could even land you back under a surgeon’s scalpel for a second procedure.

December is indeed a great reminder to get caught up on health maintenance tasks for prevention and elective surgeries that treat conditions inhibiting quality of life. However, if you’re rushing into a surgical procedure because Deductible December has you feeling pressure then think again. Take the time to really understand what your options are and what is needed in recovery to ensure the very best outcome for your health.


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