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The State of Patient Engagement

Even without universal agreement on “one” definition of patient engagement, two truths are emerging: a patient’s greater engagement in healthcare contributes to improved health outcomes, and information technologies can support engagement. The HIMSS Patient Engagement framework provides a five-milestone roadmap for health providers looking to support patients through the use of IT tools and resources: inform me, engage me, empower me, partner with me, and support my e-Community.

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Patients want to be engaged in their healthcare decision-making process, and those who are engaged as decision-makers in their care tend to be healthier and have better outcomes.

Financial health related to healthcare costs and types of insurance coverage also influences consumer health behaviors. Consumers and health providers’ financial incentives are beginning to align to foster patient engagement, including movements to provide transparency. Information and communication technologies may be disruptive to providers’ existing infrastructures, sunk investments and workflows.

Technology developers and providers keen on health informatics are taking advantage of several strategies to drive interoperability and streamlined communications. The growing use of patient portals, secure messaging (including email), and social media are reducing barriers in communication between providers and patients.

The phrase “patient engagement” means different things to different people and health industry stakeholders. One predominant definition for patient engagement is, “the relationship between patients and healthcare providers working together to promote and support active patient and public involvement in health and healthcare and to strengthen their influence on healthcare decisions, at both the individual and collective levels.”

The Center for Advancing Health offers a health engagement behavior framework based on behavior, defining engagement as “actions people take for their health and to benefit from healthcare.” The Patient Activation Measure (PAM), which classifies patients into one of four increasingly engaged levels, is gaining increasing attention among both U.S. and European health providers.

The HIMSS Patient Engagement framework provides a five-milestone roadmap for health providers looking to support patients through the use of IT tools and resources: inform me, engage me, empower me, partner with me, and support my e-Community.

The American Hospital Association’s Committee on Research developed a framework for engaging healthcare users that spans a continuum that includes the individual, the healthcare team, the organization, and the larger community, shown in Figure 1. What underpins this framework are information sharing, shared decision making, self-management, and partnerships—all key ingredients for engaging patients.

Overall, the study, sponsored by InterSystems, found that healthcare organizations are embracing patient engagement, articulating strategies and investing in technologies such as patient portals. But the in-depth analysis reveals that when leaders consider patient engagement, they question whether or not they are currently on a trajectory that will lead to the increased patient involvement required to improve clinicaloutcomes and reduce costs.

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That healthcare leaders lack a clear patient engagement strategy is concerning, said Kathleen Aller, a business development executive at InterSystems. “Even if organizations have a vision for real patient engagement, many are 100 percent consumed with checking the boxes for meaningful use,” Aller said.

Even though healthcare organizations are continuously working to engage their patients in their care, many leaders don’t believe their efforts are working: On average, healthcare leaders and clinicians believe just 34 percent of their patients are highly engaged, according to an NEJM Catalyst Insights Council survey.

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Medical Identity Theft

Identity theft, has spawned a vicious new kind of crime: medical identity theft. Thieves steal your personal information to line their own pockets with fraudulent claims against your own health policy. Medical thieves can heist your health-insurance number, Social Security number and other personal information. Often the information is stolen by employees at medical facilities, and resold on the black market. Thieves also may hack into medical databases or break into medical facilities. Medical ID theft can cost you thousands of dollars, constant stress, and even threaten your life and health. Unless you check your medical records closely, you may discover you were defrauded only after the damage has been done.

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The scams

  • Illegal and bogus treatment. Medical ID thieves bill your health plan for fake or inflated treatment claims. The crooks often are doctors and other medical personnel who know how the insurance billing system works. Organized theft rings also are involved. They buy stolen patient information on the black market, and set up fake clinics to make bogus claims against the health policies of honest consumers.
  • Buy addictive drugs. Medical personnel with access to your data may use your identity to obtain prescription drugs to sell, or feed their own addictions. Dishonest pharmacists might bill your policy for narcotics, or nurses may call in prescriptions in a patient’s name but pick it up themselves.
  • Obtain free treatment. Medical ID thieves who don’t have their own health coverage often receive free medical treatment, courtesy of your policy. They assume your identity at a hospital or clinic, and your policy receives the bills.

What’s the damage?

Medical ID theft can cause serious and long-lasting damage. Recovering can take years.

  • Ruined credit. Thieves often ring up large hospital bills in your name, then disappear without paying. This can ruin your credit. Straightening out inaccurate credit records can take months or even years of time-consuming headaches. Meanwhile, you could be hounded by bill collectors, turned down for loans or mortgages, and forced to pay higher lending costs. You also could lose jobs; some employers check a candidate’s credit history.
  • Loss of health coverage. Fraudulent insurance claims can max out your health-policy limits. This can leave you with no coverage when you have a medical emergency, or need an expensive operation or other treatment.
  • Inaccurate records. Medical ID theft can threaten your health or even life. A thief’s treatment history can end up on your medical records. This could include the wrong blood type, or medicine to which you’re allergic. Your life thus could be on the line if you receive the wrong treatment based on the thief’s treatment. Your records also could be falsely saddled with damaging — and inaccurate — diagnoses such as mental illness. This could follow you throughout your life.
  • Legal troubles. A pregnant woman stole the medical identity of a mother, and delivered a baby who tested positive for illegal drugs. Social workers tried to take away the real mother’s four children, falsely thinking she was the addict. She had to hire a lawyer to keep her family.
  • Higher health premiums. False claims against a health insurance policy can raise your health premiums — costing you yet more money.

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How to protect yourself

Here are ways you escape the scourge of medical ID theft.

  • Examine your EOBs. Review the explanation of benefits (EOB) form sent by your health insurer. If you see treatments you never received, immediately notify your insurer and medical providers.
  • Monitor your insurance benefits. Ask your insurer for a listing of benefits paid out under your policy. Do this at least once a year.
  • Check your medical records. If you suspect you’re a victim of medical ID fraud, get a copy of your records from your doctor, hospital, pharmacy or laboratory.

Don’t share medical or insurance information by phone or email unless you initiated the contact and know who you’re dealing with. Keep paper and electronic copies of your medical and health insurance records in a safe place. Shred outdated health insurance forms, prescription and physician statements, and the labels from prescription bottles before you throw them out. Also, don’t forget to read the Privacy Policy on the websites you visit and you should be fine.

 

ELF & RF Radiation Health Risks | IMPORTANCE OF PROTECTING

Technology has made everything easier for us. Before cell phones and laptops existed, people spent their time writing letters, communicating through short phone calls, and finding other ways to be closer. Today, everything is different.

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We are all connected. Cell phones, laptops, and other ‘helpful’ wireless technology surround us. But what we are less aware of is that every day, we are swimming in a pool of Electromagnetic Field Radiation (EMF). Even if we don’t use our phone as much as other people, we are influenced by the EMF created in our near surrounding.

An Electromagnetic Field (EMF) is the area created whenever electricity is generated or used. The invisible lines of EMF contain an amount of electromagnetic energy. Scientists claim EMF to be dangerous to human health as they find a connection with many chronic diseases.There are two different types of EMF: Extremely Low Frequencies (ELF), and Radio Frequency (RF).

#1 Extremely Low Frequencies (ELF) is emitted by all electronics and has a frequency range of 3 Hz to 300 Hz. Any electronic that is powered up emits ELF radiation. There is substantial evidence that ELF exposure has a biological influence on human health as it has been shown to create biological interactions that can disturb the system enough to create DNA fragmentation and mutations.

#2 Radio Frequency (RF) fields is the signal that most electronics use to connect with the antennas, including cellular service, data, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc. RF are considered a part of the group of non-ionizing radiation that has lower levels of transmission power and is incapable of changing the molecules of the human tissue, but can change their behavior.

Radio Frequencies are higher than ELF in a range from 3 kHz to 300 GHz, but both have been shown to create biological effects.

THE IMPORTANCE OF PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM BOTH TYPES OF EMFs

Based on different types of research and analysis, the safety standards for maximum exposure to cell phone and other devices radiation, rely only on the devices’ thermal effects (TE). Within years of studies, this has shown to be highly incorrect. The real concerns come from the ignored effects of the non-heating radiation exposure to human tissue, especially the brain.

Radio Frequency Radiation can cause tissue heating, which leads most of the manufacturers to offer protective products just for this type of radiation. On the other hand, there is substantial evidence that shows that Extremely Low Frequencies (ELF) can cause tissue damage without heating.

The formal conclusion that serves as a foundation for today’s exposure limits and standards exclude the damaging effect of ELF. One of the non-thermal and profoundly ignored effects that EMF (both ELF and RF) has on the human brain are the so-called ‘modulation signals’ which have no correlation with tissue heating. Which means, the two types of EMFs should be considered dangerous aside from the widely spread belief of RF radiation’s ‘thermal effects’ only.

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According to C. Blackman’s article published in Pathophysiology, “modulation signals are one important component in the delivery of EMF signals, to which cells, tissues, organs and individuals can respond biologically. Studies have tested the RF and ELF-modulated RF signals from emerging wireless technologies (cell phones) that rely on pulse-modulated RF to transmit signals.”

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Many concerns address this issue. Mostly because of the publicly announced studies that tend to ‘assure’ us that there is no correlation between EMF and the human tissue whatsoever. Although we are swimming in a pool of EMF radiation, these studies show that the only damage the human tissue can suffer from the devices is through heating.

 

How Cannabidiol Work : CBD for Anxiety

Approximately 40 million adults in the United States suffer from anxiety or anxiety-related disorders, such as panic attacks. Anxiety can be a critical adaptive response that can help people cope with threats to them or their loved ones. This response helps people identify and avoid potential threats and can also help motivate them to take the best action for the situation (e.g., take care of bills, improve health, clean house for company, etc.). However, if not managed effectively, responses to anxiety can become maladaptive and negatively impact quality of life and relationships. Eventually, these responses can turn into clinically diagnosed anxiety-related disorders.

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There are numerous drugs available to treat anxiety and anxiety-related disorders. These drugs range from tranquilizers, like the benzodiazepines Valium and Xanax, to serotonin reuptake inhibitors like Prozac and Zoloft.

These drugs are sometimes effective for many patients, but some don’t respond favorably. However, many medications will leave the patient feeling foggy in the head or sedated. Also, while a small number of patients may be lucky enough to find the right anti-anxiety medication that will offer long-term results, for the vast majority of users, they will only experience temporary relief, followed by a gradual return of anxiety symptoms.

This is where supporters of cannabidiol (CBD) step in. CBD is a non-psychoactive constituent in cannabis and may provide an alternative relief to anti-anxiety medications.

CBD is just one of over 85 identified cannabinoids found in the plant cannabis. Each of the cannabinoids found in cannabis can elicit different neurophysiological effects. Most people are more familiar with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the predominant cannabinoid found in cannabis and is ingested by an estimated 230 million people each year as a psychoactive euphoriant.

CBD accounts for about 40 percent of all cannabinoids found in the cannabis extract, although it is not as abundant as the THC content. Whereas THC is psychoactive, CBD is non-psychoactive and is not typically ingested with the intention of attaining any type of psychological euphoria or “high.” Therefore, the medicinal properties of CBD are thought to exceed those of THC.

Research suggests that CBD may act as an anticonvulsant, antipsychotic, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and antioxidant agent. Further evidence suggests that CBD oil may be an effective treatment for ongoing anxiety symptoms, such as panic attacks. Those who have anxiety disorders and who have not benefited from traditional medications or are unable to tolerate the side-effects of common pharmaceuticals may benefit from using CBD oil to treat anxiety on an ongoing basis.

CBD offers a novel approach to treating anxiety-related disorders. Said to be an anxiolytic agent, CBD is believed to modulate neurotransmission in a number of ways. For example, CBD can alter several receptor sites (mu/delta, CB1/CB2, GPR55, and 5-HT1A) while enhancing hippocampal neurogenesis at the same time. It is thought that the combination of these neurophysiological effects contribute to its effectiveness as an anti-anxiety agent.

Hippocampal Neurogenesis:

One mechanism by which pharmaceutical anti-anxiety medications might decrease anxiety is thought to be through hippocampal neurogenesis (i.e., new neuron growth). Research has shown that the administration of CBD in animal models can induce hippocampal neurogenesis and the same is thought to be able to occur in humans. Specifically, research on rats showed that with chronic administration of tandospirone (5-HT1A), the biomarker of doublecortin could be increased, which indicated that new neurons had emerged in the hippocampus.

Researchers believe that such hippocampal neurogenesis could play a major role in decreasing symptoms of depression and/or severe anxiety.

While not all 5-HT1A partial agonists can induce hippocampal neurogenesis, CBD is believed to achieve just that.

A study that was published in 2013 reviewed the effects that CBD had on mice who were exposed to chronic stress. The study suggested that the administration of CBD caused an increase in neurogenesis in the hippocampal region. It was presumed that the hippocampal neurogenesis may have been caused by the CBD’s affinity for cannabinoid receptor CB1 and CB2.

Researchers believe that anxiety can be reduced through hippocampal neurogenesis. A study that was published in 2015 reported how increasing adult neurogenesis seemed to decrease the participants’ anxiety symptoms.

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CBD Benefits for Anxiety

There are several different possible benefits of using CBD to treat anxiety and anxiety-related disorders. The agents found within CBD appear to be highly effective at reducing several different types of anxiety both when administered on an as-needed basis and through regular maintenance. In addition to helping decrease anxiety symptoms, CBD is thought to improve mood, act as an anti-inflammatory, have antioxidant properties, preserve brain function, and enhance sleep quality. In comparison with traditional anti-anxiety medications, CBD is not currently known to cause any negative side-effects or substantial contraindications, making CBD an appealing treatment worthy of further investigation.

As Needed: There is not a lot of research documenting the chronic administration of CBD in humans on an as needed, or acute, basis. Acute administration has be reported to provide significant anti-anxiety effects. Unlike SSRIs, CBD can provide fast-acting relief of anxiety symptoms without requiring daily administration or several weeks to start decreasing symptoms.

Adjunctive Option: Researchers speculate that CBD might assist the effects of pharmaceutical anti-anxiety medications. CBD has been found to have nearly zero negative interactions with other anti-anxiety medications. Therefore, someone who is taking pharmaceutical medications to manage long-term effects of anxiety, may benefit from additional administration of CBD to help combat short-term effects.

Antipsychotic: Some researchers believe that CBD can help reduce the anxiety symptoms of conditions such as schizophrenia. CBD has antipsychotic properties which might reduce psychotic symptoms, possibly by modulating dopaminergic transmission.

Anti-Inflammatory: Many people who have neuropsychiatric disorders also have severe inflammation, such as neuroinflammation. Neuroinflammation is thought to lead to cytokine and glial cell abnormalities, which can both contribute to anxiety disorders. CBD has been found by researchers to reduce neuroinflammation, which is believed to also reduce anxiety.

To learn more about CBD for anxiety, visit www.FindaTopDoc.com. Also, gain unlimited access to a myriad of other benefits. Readers can find evidence-based health information with just a click. Driven by the aim to provide authentic information about diseases, drugs, supplements, medical procedures, and lifestyle tips to all its visitors, FindaTopDoc.com and CEO Anthony Casimano allow visitors to read about the best doctors locally. Readers can choose the doctor that best meets their unique health needs, and request to schedule an appointment instantly.

References:

CBD Oil For Anxiety (06/04/2014). [Web]. In Buy CBD Online. Retrieved from: http://www.buycbdoilonline.info/2014/06/cbd-oil-anxiety/

CBD Oil For Anxiety: Is Cannabidiol An Effective Treatment? (n.d.). [Web]. Retrieved on 09/24/2017 from: http://mentalhealthdaily.com/2016/02/24/cbd-oil-for-anxiety-is-cannabidiol-an-effective-treatment/

How Cannabidiol (CBD) Works for Treating Anxiety (n.d.). [Web]. In Leafly. Retrieved on 09/24/2017 from: https://www.leafly.com/news/health/cbd-for-treating-anxiety

 

Age-related and disease-related Muscle Loss

Also called sarcopenia, muscle loss may be due to a number of different factors. Changes in hormone, lack of adequate protein intake, and lack of exercise are all contributing factors to muscle loss. By following a few tips, you can halt sarcopenia from stripping you of your health.

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Causes of Muscle Loss

One study found that within 48 hours of ceasing exercise, rats began to experience a lower steady-state rate of protein synthesis and their bodies stopped building and repairing muscles. While rats and humans are certainly different creature, the findings could mean implications for the human musculature as well. Muscles that lie dormant while waiting for use don’t get any stronger.

Age

Regardless of how often an individual works out, the simple, natural act of aging can begin to cause muscles loss. Sarcopenia begins to kick in as young as 20 and only picks up as time goes by. By the time a person reaches the age of 50, they begin losing 0.4 pounds of muscle mass each year.

Diet

Another study demonstrated that rats that are fed less calories over a 30-month period showed signs of improved protein synthesis and better muscle activity when compared with rats that were fed more calories over the same period of time. This finding contradicts earlier assumptions that muscles loss was due to not eating enough. Of course, malnutrition can also contribute to muscles loss, so a balanced and healthy diet full of vitamin D and protein is crucial to regain muscle mass.

Sleep

Researchers understand that sleep is imperative to allow the body to build and repair muscle. When a person is suffering from lack of sleep, the body is less likely to build and repair muscle effectively. Even when a person is hitting the gym regularly, a lack of sleep means a lack of muscle so sleep is crucial, especially between workouts.

The Short and Long-Term Effects of Muscle Loss

In the short term, losing any amount of muscle can lead to complications from premature aging (wrinkling and sunken cheeks) to an inability to perform everyday actions (like opening jars or carrying objects). If left untreated, muscle loss can lead to a wide range of complications later on, such as becoming disabled or even an increased risk of mortality due to injuries and frailty.

Muscle loss can also increase your risk for developing various metabolic disorders and diabetes. The increased risk for these conditions is because muscle tissue plays a major role in regulating the body’s blood sugar, hormones, and insulin.

The estimated amount of annual direct healthcare costs of muscle loss may be as high as $18.5 billion in the United States, making it even more costly than osteoporosis.

Dr. Douglas Paddon-Jones, professor of nutrition and metabolism at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston says that muscles loss is often a slow and gradual process that doesn’t just happen overnight. Muscle loss is subtle at first and becomes more advanced as time goes by. Therefore, it is imperative that individuals begin working on ways to build and maintain as much muscle as possible as early as possible (around 30 or 40). However, starting work on muscles can be helpful regardless of which age you start.

Fortunately, there are a number of easy solutions that have been scientifically proven to help build and preserve muscles.

Tips for Preventing Muscle Loss

Protein

Protein provides the amino acids which are integral to building muscle so increasing protein is one of the most important steps you can take to building and preserving muscle. Research has discovered that one particular amino acid, leucine, is especially effective at activating your body to build muscle. Foods rich in leucine, such as meat, fish, and soy, will help to turn on this switch that then builds muscle. Try to eat protein at each and every meal.

More Protein

Whereas most people probably eat a small breakfast, a medium-sized lunch and then a dinner meal that is chopped full of protein, research suggests that people should be getting their protein intake in a different way. Susan Kundrat, nutritional sciences program director at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee says that it is more important to get a consistent amount of protein at each meal, than to try to eat as much protein as possible at only one meal. The recommended dose of protein for each meal is 30 grams. The reason for this moderation is that the human body does not have a large storage reserve for protein. Consume any more than 30 grams at a meal and the rest will most likely just end up washing out when you use the restroom.  In real life terms, 30 grams is about equal to three eggs, a 4-ounce hamburger, a 5-ounce salmon, or a cup of yogurt with almonds.

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Resistance Training

Resistance training is crucial for building muscle and preventing muscle loss. Specialists recommend about 20 or 30 minutes of resistance training at least three times a week but research suggests that even one short workout that emphasizes resistance training can improve the strength and mass of your muscles. Specialists say that the key to building and maintaining muscle is to really work out your muscles by varying workouts with different types of exercises, different number of reps, and different weights. Switching up exercises, reps, and weights every other day may be a solution. One study found that participants who ate at least 30 grams of protein directly before resistance training exercises were able to increase their potential for building muscle by about 100 percent. Exercising without enough protein will be hardly beneficial, but snacking on high-protein bars or snacks could help.

To learn more about muscle loss, visit www.FindaTopDoc.com. Also, gain unlimited access to a myriad of other benefits. Readers can find evidence-based health information with just a click. Driven by the aim to provide authentic information about diseases, drugs, supplements, medical procedures, and lifestyle tips to all its visitors, FindaTopDoc.com and CEO Anthony Casimano allow visitors to read about the best doctors locally. Readers can choose the doctor that best meets their unique health needs, and request to schedule an appointment instantly.

References:

How to Eat and Exercise to Prevent Age-Related Muscle Loss from Sarcopenia (n.d.). [Web]. In EatingWell. Retrieved from: 09/20/2017 from: http://www.eatingwell.com/article/275991/how-to-eat-and-exercise-to-prevent-age-related-muscle-loss-from-sarcopenia/

How to Prevent and Reverse Muscle Loss as We Age (n.d.). [Web]. In Aging Fit. Retrieved on 09/20/2017 from: http://www.agingfit.com/muscle-loss/

Skladzinski, L. (2012, May 24). How to Stay Strong and Prevent Muscle Loss. [Web]. In Greatist. Retrieved from: https://greatist.com/fitness/how-stay-strong-and-prevent-muscle-loss

Spending on Healthcare in America

American health-care spending, measured in trillions of dollars, boggles the mind. Last year, we spent $3.2 trillion on health care — a number so large that it can be difficult to grasp its scale.A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals what patients and their insurers are spending that money on, breaking it down by 155 diseases, patient age and category — such as pharmaceuticals or hospitalizations. Among its findings:

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Chronic — and often preventable — diseases are a huge driver of personal health spending. The three most expensive diseases in 2013: diabetes ($101 billion), the most common form of heart disease ($88 billion) and back and neck pain ($88 billion).

Yearly spending increases aren’t uniform: Over a nearly two-decade period, diabetes and low back and neck pain grew at more than 6 percent per year — much faster than overall spending. Meanwhile, heart disease spending grew at 0.2 percent.

Medical spending increases with age — with the exception of newborns. About 38 percent of personal health spending in 2013 was for people over age 65. Annual spending for girls between 1 and 4 years old averaged $2,000 per person; older women 70 to 74 years old averaged $16,000.

The analysis provides some insight into what’s driving one particularly large statistic: Within a decade, close to a fifth of the American economy will consist of health care.

“It’s important we have a complete landscape when thinking about ways to make the health care system more efficient,” said Joseph Dieleman, an assistant professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington who led the work.

The data show that the primary drivers of health-care spending vary considerably. For example, more than half of diabetes care is spending on drugs, while only about 4 percent of spending on low back and neck pain was on pharmaceuticals. Generally, more spending is done on elderly people, but about 70 percent of the spending on low back and neck pain was on working-age adults. Such insights provide a way to find the drivers of growth in health-care spending and to launch strategies to control it.

“Data like this continues to draw attention to the fact a lot of these proposals being discussed about controlling health-care costs really don’t address the underlying issue, which is rising disease prevalence,” said Ken Thorpe, a professor of health policy at Emory University who was not involved in the study but has done similar research. “You see this rise in chronic disease spending — much of it is potentially preventable.”

Most of the discussion of health care in America has focused on access to insurance, but the spending breakdown shows that the biggest opportunities may come in preventing disease.

The researchers also analyzed spending on public health and prevention. In a separate editorial, Ezekiel Emanuel, a former health-care adviser to President Obama, pointed out that the largest public health spending was on HIV. But fewer than 7,000 Americans died because of HIV/AIDS in 2014 and it ranked 75th on the list of diseases by personal health expenditures.

“Few public health dollars focus on lifestyle conditions that ultimately contribute to the majority of chronic illnesses seen today,” Emanuel wrote. Low back and neck pain, for example, ranked low on the list of public health expenditures with $140 million in public health funding, but high on the list of health-care spending. Tobacco control received $340 million in public health spending, but smoking contributes to several diseases that drive health-care spending.

What the data also show is that conditions that drive health-care spending aren’t necessarily the ones that come to mind when people think about health care. Falls were the fifth-highest cause of health spending, followed closely by depression. Pregnancy and dental care were in the top 15.

 

HSA Advantage: Know What It Offers

HSA offers you numerous benefits. Notably, it allows you to save for health problems that might come your way in the future. Discover more here.

Health expenses can be really distressful considering the high costs of the healthcare services. However, with an HSA, you can take a breath of relief. In essence, it is a great way to prepare yourself for any future health problems. Do you know how an HSA can help you? Here is a detailed picture of this useful healthcare plan.

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A Quick Overview of HSA

HSA is an acronym for Health Savings Account. As the name suggests, it is similar to personal savings accounts. However, you can use the saved amount only to pay the bills of the healthcare services. Only those enrolling in a high-deductible insurance plan can open an HSA.

The basic idea behind opening this type of account is to help control healthcare expenses. It works on the theory that people tend to spend their money in a wise manner when they are themselves the owner.

A Brief History of HSA

It is a relatively new policy in the health insurance arena. In fact, it was only in 2003 that HSA began to make its presence felt. As of February this year, there are 19.7 million Americans who have such accounts. But this was not always the situation. Back in 2008, only about 6 million Americans had it.

Why You Should Consider Using an HSA to Lower Your Health Expenses

HSA advantages may be particularly lucrative to those who are currently in good health and want to save for future problems. In addition, employees who are retiring soon are more likely to find it a beneficial approach. This is because it can help to reduce healthcare costs after they retire.

Before you decide to open the account, it is important that you have a clear idea of the HSA advantages. Learn them in details in the upcoming sections.

What are the Major Components of HSA?

  1. You have control over the money in your account and also the way you spend it for your health. In fact, this might be the most influential factor that drives many Americans to open an HSA.
  2. It saves money as the amount in the HSA is exempted from tax. Isn’t it good to know your savings will help to take care of your health after many years?
  3. You can plan quite ahead how you will spend the money. As a matter of fact, better planning is always likely to yield better results.
  4. Only you can decide where to spend the money in the account. Meaning, you are the only owner of your account. Your employer may choose to contribute some amounts to your account. However, your employer or the insurance provider has no right over the money present in it.
  5. Your right over the money exists even after you have switched the job. Thus, HSA takes care of the employee benefits long after you have left the job.
  6. You won’t lose the amount even if you did not spend it this year. In fact, the amount will remain in your account and add up the next year.
  7. You can spend the funds in the account in mutual funds. Thus, before selecting an HSA administrator, learn what investment options they provide.
  8. If you are 65 or older, you may use the amount to pay for Medicare premiums. However, know that some Medicare policies may lie outside the coverage.
  9. You can continue to use an HSA even if you change your insurance plan.
  10. With HSA, you can pay other costs like those for eye or dental problems.

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Common HSA Questions Answered

  1. What’s the difference between HSA and FSA?

FSA does not allow the amount to roll over. It means you lose the money if you cannot use it.

  1. Is it that only your employer can offer such a health account?

No, that’s not the case. You may open an account through a bank or other financial institution without taking any help from the employer.

  1. What are the eligibility criteria to start an account?
  • Age below 65 years.
  • Enrolled in high-deductible health insurance plan that is the only health plan you have.
  1. Can you use the amount of health savings account for an emergency?

In case of an emergency, you may first pay using the money from taxable accounts while keeping a good record of the receipts. In the meantime, the amount in the account is free from tax and continuing to grow. Later, you can ask for reimbursement that is equivalent to the amount spent in anemergency.

  1. If you don’t use the amount and want to withdraw as you reach time of retirement, do you have to pay any sort of penalty?

No, the whole process is hassle-free.

  1. Are MSA (Medical savings account) and HSA the same?

No. In fact, MSA and HSA are very different from each other in many aspects. Most importantly, the former plan is limited to those organizations that have 50 or fewer employees. On the other hand, organizations, bigger or smaller, can provide an HSA facility.

Want To Know More?

To learn more about HSA advantages, visit http://www.FindaTopDoc.com. Also, gain unlimited access to a myriad of other benefits. Readers can find evidence-based health information with just a click. Driven by the aim to provide authentic information about diseases, drugs, supplements, medical procedures, and lifestyle tips to all its visitors, FindaTopDoc.com and CEO Anthony Casimano allow visitors to read about the best doctors locally. Readers can choose the doctor that best meets their unique health needs, and request to schedule an appointment instantly.