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5 Myths About Hospitals You Should Know

By Liz Youngblood, RN, MBA, FACHE, President, Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center, Senior Vice President/Chief Operating Officer, St. Luke's Health, Texas Division

June 19, 2023 Posted in: Leadership

Everyone seems to have an opinion about hospitals—some good, some bad. Maybe yours is based on a  personal experience you or a loved one had or influenced by something you saw on television or the internet, in a news story, or on social media. The truth is many people have misconceptions about hospitals that are often based on what they hear. 

A study conducted by MIT and published in Science found that fake news travels faster and reaches more people than truthful news, while other studies show many adults have trouble telling the difference between real news and fake news. If people are basing negative opinions on what they hear that mistrust can prevent many from seeking needed care. I’d like to share some common myths about hospitals—information that isn’t true but continues to linger.

MYTH 1: Going to the ER Will Take Forever.

It seems like everyone has heard a story of someone going to the emergency room and waiting hours and hours before getting treatment. However, statistics from the CDC show 40 percent of ER patients saw a physician, advanced practice registered nurse or physician assistant within 15 minutes of visiting an ER, and another 30 percent of patients saw a provider within one hour. 

Since emergency departments are designed to treat the most severe cases first, it makes sense that a person having a stroke or a heart attack will be seen immediately. If you have a painful but minor fracture, you might have to wait a bit longer. If one of your family members were having a stroke, you’d want them to receive immediate care, too. 

If you need care at the ER for a non-life-threatening condition, St. Luke’s Health offers online check-in. This option gives you a scheduled time slot to arrive so you can wait at home instead of in the ER waiting room. Many health conditions can also be treated at an urgent care center instead of the ER, saving instead of the ER, which can also save you time and money.

MYTH 2: Good Health Care Costs More.

When shopping for a car, you don’t always get what you pay for. If you choose a late-model sedan instead of a 20-year-old clunker, you might get better value for your money, but a higher cost doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting the best product available. 

“Shopping for health care” isn’t as easy as going to a store, but the idea is similar. It’s definitely worth your while to do some research in advance, especially for elective surgeries and medical procedures. Hospitals should be transparent about their prices and make it easy for you to look at their estimated costs for services, what your insurance covers, and your doctor’s knowledge and experience. 

The cost of procedures can vary wildly between hospitals and clinics because they are based on the rates they negotiate with insurance companies—not because their care is more advanced.

MYTH 3: If You Have Health Insurance, You Won’t Receive Any Hospital Bills.

In a perfect world, you’d pay your health insurance premium and cover all your health care costs. The reality is insurance coverage works somewhat differently for people who purchase a policy. 

Some providers and hospitals may be covered because they are in the network, while others may cost you much more because they are not affiliated. Your insurance may not cover some medications, and some procedures require permission from your insurance company before you can have them. Hospitals understand how frustrating and confusing this can be, especially when you only care about getting affordable care ASAP. 

St. Luke’s Health works with patients to help them understand their billing statements and craft workable payment plans when necessary.

MYTH 4: If You’re Sick, You Need Medication.

Between the constant flow of pharmaceutical ads on TV and isles of pills and solutions at the pharmacy, you would think there’s a medication available to treat every health issue that arises. Yet sometimes prescription meds aren’t the answer to what ails you. 

Lifestyle changes can be just as effective as medication for specific health problems—and they almost never come with side effects. Your doctor may want you to start a more conservative and affordable treatment than prescription drugs, which works well for many patients. For example, instead of taking prescription medication for back pain, you and your doctor might find other relief remedies. 

MYTH 5: The Doctors Know Best, Never Question Them.

While it’s true that doctors usually do know best — medical training takes a long time for a reason —  you or a loved one has a medical problem, and your opinions matter. If you’re dealing with a chronic condition and seeing a new doctor, you might need to share the full range of treatments you’ve already tried or ask about a new treatment you haven’t tried. 

Good doctors always encourage their patients to feel comfortable asking questions. Ask them to explain if you don’t understand why they recommend a procedure or medication. You should also understand your patient's rights surrounding treatment, billing, and sharing information.

At St. Luke’s Health, we care about our patients. Our staff is always here to answer any questions about your care. Your confidence in us matters.

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