Monday, January 9, 2012

For 2012, Resolve to Keep it Simple

It happens every year. We make resolutions to get healthier, exercise more, take better care of ourselves – and quickly break them. We’re “well”-intentioned, but we actually sabotage our own efforts by setting goals that are too big (e.g. vowing to hit the gym at 6 a.m. every day when you’ve never worked out before) and by wanting results too quickly. Change – and the willpower to sustain it – does not come that easy. That’s why I was particularly interested in a recent article that suggested taking baby steps to better health.

The Futures Company, a global research and consulting firm, notes that – “For a healthy 2012, think ‘simple.'” The Company stated that individuals view getting healthy as a complicated process. But, in order for New Year’s goals to stick, they must be as “simple, easy and seamlessly integrated into people’s lifestyles as possible.”

With this advice in mind, one of the simplest steps you can take to get moving in a healthy direction is to review your health insurance plan. Many plans offer health and wellness programs and other value-added benefits and resources at no additional cost.

Depending on your policy, you may be able to:

• Enroll in health reminder and other wellness programs to receive alerts as to when it’s time to visit the doctor for check-ups and annual preventive care, such as mammograms, vaccinations and physicals. In addition, many insurance plans offer education, health assessments and personal-support resources that can help guide expectant mothers through their pregnancies and individuals with diabetes and pre-diabetes, for example.

• Utilize electronic health records and prescriptions to more easily track medications and health histories. Tools such as these may help reduce medical errors, increase cost savings and improve health outcomes.

• Compare treatment costs – Some health plans offer tools that enable individuals to compare the quality ratings among physicians who participate in your health plan’s network, in addition to their cost, like UnitedHealthcare’s Treatment Cost Estimator® and its UnitedHealth Premium® designation program.

• Access 24/7 nurse care lines where trained, licensed nurses are available to answer basic health questions. They are especially helpful during after-hours or for minor health issues that do not require an immediate trip to the urgent-care clinic or emergency room.

• And most importantly, take a health risk assessment. Many health plans offer online health self-assessments that help people learn more about their current conditions and risks.

And while you’re on a roll, take a few minutes to schedule health appointments and screenings now. Let’s use the whole month of January, not to make empty resolutions, but to resolve to get in control of our health – and end the cycle of guilt and failure.

I want to wish all of you a very happy – and healthy – New Year!

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