Top Five Reasons to Visit a Urologist

Urology is the specialty of medicine that focuses on the urinary tract—the bladder, kidney, urethra, and associated organs—and the male reproductive organs like the testes, prostate and penis. Because urologists specialize in male sexual organs—among other things—it’s a common misconception that the specialty is simply the male counterpart to a gynecologist. However, this is a false assumption that could prevent many women from receiving the most qualified care for many urinary tract issues.

Men and women can benefit in a variety of ways from the specialized care a urologist can provide. To help understand the scope of their care, here are five common reasons it might be a good idea to make an appointment with a urologist in your area today.

1) Because your primary care physician tells you to

This one may seem like a no brainer, but it’s overlooked enough that it bears pointing out. One of the key responsibilities of your primary care physician (PCP) is to coordinate your care among different specialties. Whenever a patient has an issue that requires more specialized expertise, it is the responsibility of the PCP to make recommendations of which specialists to visit and to help coordinate your care among the various specialties.

If your PCP recommends that you visit a urologist, it’s clear that they think there’s an issue beyond their typical scope. So, it’s important to follow that recommendation. In many cases, your PCP’s office may make the appointment with a urologist for you. In other cases, they may leave that up to you. Regardless, it’s important to get the appointment scheduled and stick to it even if the symptoms seem to subside.

2) When you’re having recurrent urinary tract infections

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that occurs in any of the organs associated with the urinary system. Depending on where the UTI specifically occurs, they can produce symptoms like foul smelling or discolored urine, pain in the lower stomach or back, an increased need to urinate, or pain during urination. UTIs aren’t that uncommon in women—although they shouldn’t occur frequently—and, in men, they’re relatively rare, especially before the age of 50.

While a single UTI is probably not cause to see a specialist, multiple UTIs in a brief time span may warrant the need to make a urology appointment. A urologist will be able to more accurately pinpoint where in the urinary tract the infection is occurring and work to find the root cause of the recurrent infections. If you’ve suffered from multiple UTIs, your urologist can also make sure your frequent and repeat infections haven’t permanently damaged your urinary system – which could be amplifying your symptoms.

3) If you’re a male and notice any change in your testes

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men between the ages of 20-39 years old. That’s why it’s important for men to familiarize themselves with their anatomy so that they can easily identify any changes that may signal a serious condition.

Testicular cancer is extremely curable, especially if caught early. That’s why if you notice any lumps or bumps on your testicles it’s vital to make an appointment with a urologist who can examine you further.

There are other changes to the testes that aren’t signs of cancer that still should be examined by a urologist. Pain, swelling, or changes in the texture of the testes are all symptoms that merit further examination. When making an appointment with a urologist, be sure to explain the symptoms in detail on the phone—some symptoms are more urgent than others and may necessitate being seen sooner than others. If you’re having trouble being seen quickly, you can often work with your PCP who can help you assess the urgency and, if needed, work with a urologist to get you scheduled sooner rather than later.

4) When your urinary habits suddenly change

Everyone is different, and urination frequency depends on a wide variety of factors. On average, most people urinate between 7-10 times a day. If you’ve found that you always go more or less frequently than average, that’s not necessarily cause for concern. However, if you suddenly find yourself having to go significantly more or less than you used to, then it may be time to see a urologist.

It’s also important to consider more than just frequency. Other urination related changes to look for include:

  • A change in the effort required for urination (a need to “push” harder)
  • A frequent sensation or feeling the need to urinate, with little or no urine produced
  • A harder time controlling urination: accidental urination, or a harder time stopping once started

Each of these symptoms could be signs of conditions that a urologist is best qualified to diagnose and treat.

5) If you’re a man over the age of 40

Once men approach the age of 40, the risk for a variety of urological diseases increases. As a specialist in both urinary systems and the male reproductive system, urologists screen men for a variety of these diseases and talk with you about your family history, diet, lifestyle and other risk factors to consider in your overall health.

Once you hit 40, it’s important to get screened, even without symptoms, so that you and your urologist can understand what’s normal for your body. Even slight changes from a baseline can signal that something may need closer attention.

At 40, you should also begin to undergo regular prostate screenings to check for inflammation and other signs of cancer. As you age, the risk for sexual dysfunction also increases and can be assessed and treated by a urologist.

How to find a urologist

When choosing any doctor there are a number of considerations to keep in mind: location, price and quality are key factors that determine the overall satisfaction you’ll have with your urologist. Use HealthCost to search for a urologist in a specific area, find a price that works for your budget and review quality ratings from other patients.

Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this blog or found by following any link on this blog. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

Why You Need a Regular Eye Exam

August is National Eye Exam Month, and whether you’re preparing to send your kids back to school or just going about your normal end-of-summer business, it’s a good time to think about your eye health. While there are different schools of thought fromophthalmologists and optometrists on how often you should get an eye exam, it’s clear that regular visits are important.

We’ve already explained the difference between the different types of eye healthcare professionals, but you may still be wondering why you need an eye exam in the first place. To answer that, you have to take a second to appreciate how special the eye really is.

The eyes are a window into your body

The unique positioning of the eyes to the brain, as well as the high number of blood vessels in the area, makes the eyes a great indicator of a variety of health issues. A look into your eyes by a trained professional can help identify early stages of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Recent research even suggests that certain scans of the eye could be an early detector of Alzheimer’s.

That’s not to mention the variety of eye health issues that, if not caught during a regular screening, could result in serious health complications. Cataracts, retinal detachment, glaucoma, and more are all screened for during routine eye checkups. In each case, early detection can save you from damage to your eyes and vision.

Eyesight changes throughout your life

As a young child you may have had perfect vision but then found the need for corrective glasses to take notes in college, or as a once-vibrant, eagle-eyed 20-something you could suddenly find reading the computer screen a strain in your forties. Everyone’s experience is different.

Poor vision can also have a negative impact on your ability to drive and react to sudden changes in your environment. If you can’t see well, it could even prevent you from excelling in work or school. For those already wearing glasses or contacts, an outdated prescription can lead to eye strain, headaches and blurred vision.

Modern lifestyles present unique eye risks

The device on which you’re reading this article presents another reason to have routine eye exams. The screens on our phones, tablets and computers emit blue and violet light at such a high-energy and short wavelength that it is causing, what doctors are referring to as, digital eye strain.

Digital eye strain is known to cause headaches, blurred or doubled vision, and eye fatigue. These symptoms are often temporary and minor, but overexposure to computer light can also lead to more serious conditions like macular degeneration.

Protect your eyes

With each of these compelling explanations of what an eye exam will detect, you can begin to see the importance of routine eye care appointments. The best way to keep your eyes healthy—and have confidence that there isn’t an underlying issue—is with regular screening. Making an appointment today could be the first step to protecting your vision—and your health—for years to come.

Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this blog or found by following any link on this blog. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

What Makes HealthCost Different?

Although healthcare price transparency networks aren’t unique in and of themselves, HealthCost is the only network offering actual costs. In this 90-second clip, our founding partner, Bill Moore, discusses the HealthCost difference and how it empowers healthcare providers and consumers to take control of their costs.

Footage courtesy of Health Datapalooza 2017.

Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this blog or found by following any link on this blog. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

What’s the Difference Between an Optometrist and Ophthalmologist?

By HealthCost

August is National Eye Exam Month and Cataracts Awareness Month. It’s a great reminder to take a moment to schedule an appointment for an important regular eye exam.

But who should you see? In the realm of eye health, there are two primary types of medical professionals: optometrists and ophthalmologists. Each are highly trained specialists with their own benefits. Because they sound so similar, it can be confusing to understand who does what.

Optometrist

There are more than 36,000 optometrists in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Optometrists perform eye exams, treat conditions like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism, prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses, and diagnose eye conditions like cataracts, glaucoma and retinopathy. In most states, optometrists can prescribe medicine for certain eye conditions.

In addition to undergraduate study, optometrists complete four years of postgraduate study to receive a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree. While this degree does not make an optometrist a medical doctor, optometrists must pass nationally administered exams to gain licensing and adhere to strict standards—just like a medical doctor—to remain in practice. For many patients, an optometrist may be the only eye care professional they ever need to see. For others, optometrists may be the first to notice a critical issue requiring the care of an ophthalmologist.

Ophthalmologist

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the treatment of the eye. While they can perform routine eye exams, they are highly trained and specialized in more complex eye health issues. This includes surgery on the eye, LASIK vision correction, removal of cataracts, or surgery related to eye trauma or burns. They can prescribe medications to treat eye conditions. Currently, there are more than 23,000 ophthalmologists practicing in the United States, according to the American Medical Association.

After completing undergraduate study, an ophthalmologist goes on to medical school like any physician. After becoming licensed physicians, a doctor must complete three or more years of special residency to become an ophthalmologist.

Working Together

Optometrists and ophthalmologists work together to provide care for patients. In many cases, an optometrist will perform routine exams and prescribe eyeglasses and contacts while referring patients whose eye exams turn up issues to the ophthalmologist who can then provide specialized care. An optometrist may assist an ophthalmologist with pre- or post-operative eye care for those who need surgery. If you’re looking for a place to start and just need a routine exam, it’s often best to start with an optometrist, who will let you know if you need to see an ophthalmologist.

Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this blog or found by following any link on this blog. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

15 Healthcare Terms You Need to Know

15 Healthcare Terms You Need to KnowThe words and terms used in the healthcare payments industry, for even the most experienced consumers, can seem like a foreign language. We want to make it less complicated. The better you understand the common terms thrown around in the healthcare space, the better prepared you are to secure the healthcare you deserve.

That’s why we’ve curated some of the most important healthcare terms from reliable sources for you. The following terms are defined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and Healthcare.gov.

  1. Allowed Amount
    • The maximum amount a plan will pay for a covered healthcare service. This may be called “eligible expense,” “payment allowance” or “negotiated rate.” If your provider charges more than the allowed amount, you may have to pay the difference out of pocket.
  2. Balance Billing
    • When a provider bills you for the difference between the provider’s charge and the allowed amount. The amount shown on this bill indicates the total out-of-pocket expense you should contribute for that service.
  3. Copayment
    • A fixed amount (e.g. $15) you pay for a covered healthcare service. Generally, plans with lower monthly premiums have higher copayments, and plans with higher monthly premiums have lower copayments. The copayment for a High Deductible Plan only activates once you meet the deductible.
  4. Deductible
    • The amount you pay annually for covered healthcare services before your insurance plan starts to pay. With a $2,000 deductible, for example, you pay the first $2,000 of covered services out of pocket. After you pay your deductible, you usually pay only a copayment or coinsurance for covered services. Your insurance company pays the rest.
  5. Episode of Care
    • The total set of services needed to provide treatment for a specific condition.
  6. Grievance
    • A complaint that you communicate to your health insurer or plan.
  7. High Deductible Health Plan
    • A plan with a higher deductible than a traditional insurance plan. The monthly premium is usually lower, but you pay more healthcare costs yourself before the insurance company starts to pay its share (your deductible). The IRS defines a high deductible health plan as any plan with a deductible of at least $1,300 for an individual or $2,600 for a family.
  8. In-network Providers
    • Healthcare providers (e.g. physicians) or facilities that contract with your health insurance or plan. In-network expenses are typically lower than out-of-network expenses.
  9. Medicare
  10. Out-of-network Providers
    • Healthcare providers (e.g. physicians) or facilities that do not contract with your health insurance or plan. Your insurance may still pay a certain amount of out-of-network expenses, but overall out-of-network expenses are typically higher than in-network expenses. The remaining out-of-pocket balance, not covered by insurance, is referred to as balance billing.
  11. Out-of-pocket Costs
    • Your expenses for medical care that aren’t reimbursed by insurance. Out-of-pocket costs include deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments for covered services plus all costs for services that aren’t covered. If you are uninsured, all medical expenses are considered out-of-pocket costs.
  12. Pre-existing Condition
    • A health problem you had before the date that new health coverage starts, including common conditions such as asthma, cancer and heart disease.
  13. Premium
    • The amount covered individuals pay for their health insurance every month.
  14. Provider
    • A physician (M.D. – Medical Doctor or D.O. – Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine), healthcare professional or healthcare facility licensed, certified or accredited as required by state law. Providers help us get the healthcare treatment we need to get better and stay healthy.
  15. Specialist
    • A physician specialist focuses on a specific area of medicine or a group of patients to diagnose, manage, prevent or treat certain types of symptoms and conditions. A non-physician specialist is a provider who has more training in a specific area of healthcare.

Although this list isn’t comprehensive, it’s a great starting point to keep your mind at the forefront of financing the unexpected. Find exact healthcare costs today.

Our information on healthcare costs may differ from fees paid through a health insurance plan. The fees may differ for each insured person, and may be lower or higher than the actual costs listed in the service. If you are covered under a health insurance plan, please check with your health insurance network to compare the amount of the service cost(s) your insurance will cover with the service cost(s) listed on HealthCost.com.

Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this blog or found by following any link on this blog. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

What Goes into Healthcare Costs

If you’ve received any type of healthcare treatment in your lifetime, you know the drill. You visit the doc, you get the procedure and then comes the bill. Really, you have no idea how much any of it is going to cost until you see that dreaded statement and how they came to the final amount is an even bigger mystery. So what are some of the items often seen on a billing statement?

The answer (like many things in healthcare): it’s complicated. There are many key factors that can appear on your bill or contribute to the final amount due. If you’re looking to keep healthcare costs low, familiarize yourself with what goes into your medical bill, research costs beforehand, and—importantly—talk to your doctor about what you find.

What Goes Into Healthcare Costs | HealthCost Blog

Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this blog or found by following any link on this blog. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

HealthCost: The Network for Everyone Else

The statistics from the Kaiser Family Foundation and CDC speak for themselves. Too many Americans are left paying excessive costs for healthcare services. They’re either completely uninsured or they fall within a network with extremely high deductibles that force them to pay heavy out-of-pocket expenses for their healthcare needs.

HealthCost is giving the power back to the consumer by providing a searchable database for these families and individuals to make informed decisions.

With HealthCost, you can search for a specific medical procedure, imaging procedure or specialty physician to find the doctor you want at the cost you need.

Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this blog or found by following any link on this blog. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

Where to go When the Doc is Out: ER v. Urgent Care Costs

There is often a level of uncertainty when you’re unable to book an appointment with your regular doctor – should you visit an emergency room (ER) or an urgent care facility? Both have their benefits, but the real kicker comes with cost. Of course, if your symptoms seem life-threatening, you should always seek out the ER or dial 911. However, there are often symptoms of non-life-threatening conditions—that always seem to pop up on the weekend or after office hours—that urgent care facilities can treat at a fraction of the cost.

Debt.org, using Medica data, brings some of these cost differences to life in the graph below.

In 2013, some of the leading principal reasons for ER visits were stomach and abdominal pains (10 million), coughing (5 million), fevers (4.6 million) and vomiting (2.8 million) – each of which can be treated at an urgent care facility or separate private practice (depending on severity). This information, combined with the graph above, raises the important question: Why you are seeking treatment in the first place? Again, if the answer is for life-threatening symptoms or injuries, go to the ER or call 911. For anything else, the alternative may be your best bet.

Reasons to visit the ER:

  • Severe chest pain
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Paralysis
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • High fevers (over 103) or rash, especially among children
  • Vaginal bleeding with pregnancy
  • Uncontrollable vomiting
  • Poisoning
  • Severe head or eye injuries
  • Allergic reactions
  • Unconsciousness

When to seek alternative options:

  • Minor abdominal pain
  • Fevers, flu or cold symptoms
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Ear infections
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Bronchitis
  • Sprains and broken bones
  • Cuts and bleeding that may require stitches
  • Breathing discomfort, such as moderate asthma
  • Urinary tract infections
  • X-rays and lab tests
  • Minor neck pain

(Source: El Camino Hospital)

How HealthCost can help.

Even once you deem your symptoms unnecessary for the ER, large gaps in cost between urgent care facilities and private practices can still occur. HealthCost helps you bridge this gap by providing the tools you need to shop for healthcare services in advance. By using HealthCost, you can see specialists, procedures and facilities available in your area in real time with the price tag attached.

Below are some of the most common specialists and procedures searchable through HealthCost.

Specialists:

  • Allergist/Immunologist
  • Infectious Disease Specialist
  • Sports Medicine Specialist
  • Family Practitioner
  • Internist
  • Pain Management Specialist
  • Endocrinologist
  • Vascular Surgeon
  • Neurologist
  • Urologist
  • Gastroenterologist

Imaging Procedures:

  • X-ray (ankle, arm, hand, hip, pelvis, chest, leg, foot, skull)
  • Ultrasound Imaging
  • Breast imaging
  • CT Imaging
  • Radiography sinuses
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

With a resource like HealthCost, it pays to stay informed. Start your search today.

Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this blog or found by following any link on this blog. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

Let’s Address the Cost of Care

By Douglas Tardio, HealthCost Founding Partner

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article discussing 2018 projected healthcare premium increases. It states that, on average, insurers will ask for a 20 percent increase in premiums, with some asking for over 50 percent. Before we get lost in the numbers, let’s consider a few points:

  1. Annual premium increases are not new
  2. They are not a one-time event while the market re-stabilizes
  3. The lack of clarity on future subsidies are not driving them
  4. “All the healthy people” that haven’t purchased insurance are not to blame for rising premiums

The Kaiser/HRET of Employer Sponsored Health Benefits (1994-2004) provides some clarity. Keep in mind that employer-sponsored plans have little or nothing to do with Obamacare or the Exchanges. These plans aren’t new, and they still cover a majority of the insured consumers in the country (roughly 147 million v. 20 million for ACA exchange plans). Below is a graph from Kaiser/HRET to better understand the changes in premiums over the years.

And yes, while you might not see a 50 percent jump in any one year for employer-sponsored plans, one thing is clear: The true answer lies in the access to and cost of care. By access, I don’t mean access to insurance – I mean access to healthcare services. Let’s look at drugs, for example. Direct-to-consumer advertising of drugs was legally approved in 1985, but rapidly accelerated in 1997 with FDA review. Today, if you watch the nightly news, you understand the impact to access this has made. If not, “go ask your doctor about it.” And second, the cost of healthcare services. Again, drug cost increases lead the way, but they are often followed by inpatient hospital cost increases. For example, aligned with the acceleration of direct-to-consumer drug advertising, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics found a 195 percent inpatient hospital cost increase from 1997 to 2016.

The problem is that we don’t find out about the majority of these cost increases until after services are performed. At that point, there is little you as a patient can do. But there is a lot Congress can do, if they would only stop for a moment and address the cost of care.

Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this blog or found by following any link on this blog. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this blog or found by following any link on this blog. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

The Reality of Healthcare Pricing: Price Variance

By HealthCost

Price variance is the term used to describe price differences for the same medical procedure from one facility to another. Customers expect pricing to be consistent. Imagine the controversy if residents of California were expected to pay 400 times more for a gallon of gas than those in New York were expected to pay!

The secret to eliminating price variance in healthcare is in price transparency. HealthCost.com shows you actual costs for actual procedures. Using data from HealthCost, below are five of the most cost variant procedures in the United States.

Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this blog or found by following any link on this blog. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.