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The health care industry in Pakistan relies on imports including medical equipment, supplies, and medications, raw materials for locally manufactured medications, and instruments for laboratory and radiological tests. Patients in Pakistan have already noticed the rising costs of health care services due to the depreciation of Pakistani Rupee, ranging from medications to tests and procedures. The economic forecasts indicate that the worse is yet to come. This will have serious implications for patients, especially for those suffering from chronic ailments including high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, heart diseases, kidney problems, liver diseases, and cancer. In this article, I offer some suggestions to patients to manage healthcare expenses in this time of economic distress.

DO NOT SKIP YOUR MEDICAL APPOINTMENTS!

If you have a chronic disease that requires regular visits to your doctor, do not skip those scheduled visits even if you are feeling well. Your chronic disease might have changed its course, necessitating a modification in treatment. In addition, health care professionals are trained to detect and prevent any complications that may arise from your underlying medical condition. Early detection and management of such complications can help you save a fortune in the future due to potentially prolonged hospitalization, major intervention, or surgical procedure. You may make economical arrangements with your doctor to save the cost of travel such as sharing test results through mobile communication or video conferencing for consultation on minor issues.

FOCUS ON HEALTHY LIFESTYLE!

You can adopt several lifestyle interventions to reduce your healthcare expense that cost nothing or are much cheaper than medical treatments. Few examples of such interventions are:-

  1. Weight loss of 10 Kkg can help you reduce your blood pressure by 10 mm Hg, control your blood sugar, and avert heart problems.
  2. Daily aerobic exercises like brisk walking or running can help you decrease lower blood pressure by 5 mm Hg, control blood sugar, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  3. Eating plenty of fruits, and vegetables, nuts, and legumes may lower blood pressure by 11 mm Hg.
  4. Dietary salt restriction can reduce your blood pressure by 5 mm Hg.
  5. Quitting smoking helps prevent heart disease, stroke, blockage of arteries in legs, and chest infections.
  6. Avoiding fried foods, sweets, sodas, and junk food can help to regulate your blood sugar and prevent heart attack.
  7. Avoiding spicy and fried foods as well as erratic eating habits can stop heartburns.
  8. Eating a diet rich in fibers and staying active can help avoid medications for constipation.

You should talk to your physician as well as consult reliable online resources for more information about healthy lifestyle choices.

DISCUSS WAYS TO CUT YOUR HEALTH CARE COSTS WITH YOUR DOCTOR!

You may ask your doctor about the minimum number of consultations and treatments that are critical to managing your health problem. Your doctor can also guide you to cost-effective yet reliable places to get your tests done. Similarly, expensive medications are not necessarily better. Several pharmaceutical companies offer high-quality medications at lower prices due to the sheer volume of their sales as well as competitive pressure. If you feel that the cost of medications is beyond your budget, you can ask your doctor to prescribe inexpensive yet effective alternatives. Your doctor may also be able to eliminate not so vital medications including vitamins, supplements, or stomach medications that you may not need anymore.

SHOP FOR COST-EFFECTIVE HEALTHCARE!

Healthcare professionals are well aware that expensive is not necessarily better and private sector hospitals are not essentially superior to public sector hospitals. There are many health care providers and places that offer high-quality care at affordable prices. You may ask your friends, family members including doctors, and other patients for testimonials regarding cost-effective options, especially when it comes to surgical procedures.

LOOK FOR ASSISTANCE OR WELFARE PROGRAMS!

Besides public health facilities, many philanthropists and trust organizations offer medications, procedures, and overall care at discounted rates or even free. Your healthcare providers including doctors and nurses as well as other patients may be the best resource to guide you to such programs. In addition, do take advantage of the health insurance plans from your employer or government if you are eligible.

It may be tempting to compromise on your health in the current economic environment. However, you should never forget that your health takes priority over everything else including but not limited to educational and marital expenses of your children.  If you are suffering from a chronic ailment, stay in touch with your health care provider to devise an economic care plan. A serious or life-threatening complication down the road can jeopardise your finances as well as personal and family life.