Soon after the moving boxes are unpacked, the cardboard is broken down and placed at the curb for recycling pickup, and the house is mostly put together. It’s not long before it’s time to get everyone in the family established with new care providers. Whether it’s back-to-school physicals, getting prescriptions to refill at the pharmacy, having that next six-month dental cleaning, or finding your next hairstylist, taking care of all of this business is important both for your health and for your happiness.
While it is super frustrating for most military families to repeat this process every few years, it is something everyone must deal with. Below are three tips to make this as painless and efficient as possible.
Figure Out How Your Network Works
Under nearly all circumstances, military families have access to Tricare, the health insurance provider that covers our health care needs. A PCS is considered a qualifying event to make changes to your plan so carefully consider based on your new duty assignment whether you prefer Tricare Prime (where you are assigned a primary care manager, or PCM) or Tricare Select (where you have a choice to choose your own providers within the network).
Often this decision is shaped by where you are living. If you are in a large metropolitan area or a large installation that might offer a different perspective than if you are stationed in a remote area and might drive anywhere from one to several hours away to providers. Additionally, some areas offer the US Family Health Plan which is an additional TRICARE Prime option available through networks of community-based, not-for-profit health care systems in six areas of the United States. Once you know what your allowable options are, it’s time to put on your research hat.
Research Reputations and Reviews
Assuming you have a network that allows for personal choice, there are several ways to get answers on the best pediatricians, most coveted specialists, and more importantly, who to stay away from. Sites like Healthgrades.com, Vitals.com, and Google Reviews offer patients and consumers an opportunity to leave detailed reviews of their experiences.
Another way is to scour social networking sites like Facebook. Many installations have unofficial Facebook pages or spouse pages where this kind of information is shared freely. Beware that these “testimonials” aren’t anything more than people venting sometimes, but it is one avenue of research. Finally, going direct by either word of mouth from neighbors or other community members you know as well as cold calling the practice to form your own opinions can offer yet another level of input.
Don’t Hesitate to Get a Second Opinion
For many military families, it can be tempting to just settle for the first practitioner they find. Short amounts of time on station, stressful life events like deployments, and other typical family disruptions can make it easy to just take an appointment, interaction, or diagnosis with a service provider at face value. Whether it’s overly aggressive dental work suggested, a doctor who breezes in and out and blows off your concerns, or even just a feeling you get that doesn’t sit well with you, do not hesitate to keep researching and find someone else that will address your needs.