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    How to help parents cut healthcare costs

    The cost of healthcare can be overwhelming for many patients’ families. Here are suggestions that can significantly reduce parents’ out-of-pocket medical expenses and even help your bottom line.

     

    Reducing pharmacy costs

    Another way to save our patients’ money is to be cognizant of the cost of the medications we prescribe. Competition is fierce among pharmacies and even medication that we assume is inexpensive varies in price from one pharmacy to another. Amoxil is probably the least expensive medication we prescribe. The 400-mg suspension bid for 10 days in my area costs $4 at Walmart and $11 at CVS—not all that much different. In contrast, a month of 20-mg generic Adderall XR will cost noninsured patients $167 at Walmart and $67 at Walgreens. It is prudent to familiarize yourself with several insurance plan formularies so you can prescribe the lowest-priced but most-effective medication.

    Mobile apps that save patients money

    One of my top 10 apps for pediatric practice is GoodRx, available as a mobile application or web portal. I have saved patients hundreds of dollars by recommending this application because it displays coupons that reduce the cost of prescriptions, sometimes below that of insurance copayments. The app is free and worth recommending to your patients’ parents.

    Another app worth recommending to parents that can prevent unnecessary expenditures is the $2.99 SymptomMD. It is an application all parents should use to self-triage medical problems. It includes dosages of commonly used medications such as acetaminophen, diphenhydramine, and ibuprofen, and provides sage advice regarding what symptoms warrant observation, prompt evaluation by a physician, or an emergency department (ED) visit. As discussed in my previous article (“Top 10 apps for pediatrics,” Contemporary Pediatrics, February 2017), the application has been shown to reduce unnecessary visits to physicians and EDs.

    Change your practice!

    Those pediatricians who are young and adventurous, or mature pediatricians who are frustrated with the status quo, should consider changing their practice model. You can practice a more cost-effective type of medical practice that increases the time spent with patients while reducing patient costs by converting your practice to direct primary care. This is a practice model that is subscriber based. Patients pay a fixed monthly fee, typically of the magnitude of $60 to $70 per month per enrolled patient. Patients are seen for unlimited well and sick visits without a copay, with office tests provided at no charge. Patient still maintain insurance for hospitalizations and ED visits.

    Next: How to avoid missteps when prescribing medications

    The benefit is that pediatricians can usually cap their patient panel at less than 1000 patients, compared with the 2000 or more patients that is typical for those accepting standard insurance. Your office overhead is reduced because you no longer need to bill insurance or process claims. Pediatricians with reasonable overhead can earn more than they could in a standard practice, yet the price to the parent is dramatically less than it would be otherwise. This is why direct primary care is growing rapidly.

    In conclusion

    The cost of healthcare can be overwhelming for many of our patients’ families, and the suggestions I have given can significantly reduce parents’ out-of-pocket medical expenses. Please contact me at medgizmos.com if you’ve discovered any other ways to reduce medical costs for your patients!

    Andrew J Schuman, MD, FAAP
    Dr Schuman, section editor for Peds v2.0, is clinical assistant professor of Pediatrics, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, ...

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