With knowledge comes responsibility and when we ask for transparency like we did in my last blog post, that's exactly what we get . . . more responsibility.  
 
Wiki defines responsibility as the state of having the duty to deal with something, to be accountable or to blame for something . . . though in my experience, blame is usually a waste of time and distracts attention from what's really important. So, what does responsibility in health care look like?
 
Responsibility in health care means two things to me. First, I believe that every one of us has a responsibility to live a healthy lifestyle. Eat right, exercise, get enough rest, manage your stress, wash your hands, get an annual flu shot and see your primary care doctor at least once per year for a full physical check-up are a few good habits.   

It also means making informed choices when we don't feel well provided we're not shot, stabbed, bleeding profusely, missing a body part, experiencing severe chest pain or dealing with massive head trauma. In those emergency, life and death situations, we are fighting for our lives and need to seek immediate care at the closest facility . . . but let's face it, those situations are infrequent (hopefully). The majority of health care situations are not life threatening emergencies and as a result, we can make educated choices when we seek help if we care to take the time to do so.
 
When you take time to shop for health care — assuming we live in a world of transparency — you begin to understand the value of it, then it's up to you to make informed decisions about how you use those services. A responsible decision about using health services could be as simple as buying a generic drug instead of a brand name drug, speaking to a nurse to get advice or taking a day off from work to rest instead of making a trip to the doctor.  It could also mean avoiding an unnecessary visit to the emergency room when seeking care from your family physician might be a better choice.  
 
When you make responsible decisions by educating yourself about the real cost and quality of health services and consistently seek preventive care on your own, the cost of health care is reduced for you — and if you are covered by your employer, it could lower their healthcare costs as well.  Wow, what a concept . . . make responsible choices, stay well and lower health care costs.  Can you imagine if all of us lived our lives this way?

Gaunya, GBA, is principal at Methuen, Mass.-based Borislow Insurance. He can be reached at 978-689-8200 or mark@borislow.com.

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