Healthcare Detective Frank Lalli Shares Five Steps to Ensure Your Health

Frank Lalli, a journalist (Forbes) the former editor of Money and George magazines, author (Your Best Health Care Now), Health Care Detective™ and WHDD contributor has devoted his award-winning career to getting to the bottom of a good story. When diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma eleven years ago, a rare but potentially deadly blood cancer, he put his reporter’s instincts to work to save his own life. Twelve years later, Lalli is three years into what doctors call complete remission and on Saturday, June 13, he shared personal anecdotes and offered a grateful Zoom audience five essential steps anyone can take to be a better healthcare self-advocate.  

At the outset, Lalli urged audience members to obtain the best health insurance-specifically with the widest provider choice possible-they can afford. He stated that Medicare’s bad reputation is undeserved. “While some physicians have opted out, 90 percent of primary care doctors, 80 percent of specialists, and mostly all 5,000 hospitals in this country accept Medicare.”

When considering your healthcare, Lalli recommends:

Find a first-rate primary care doctor. By this Lalli means that you want a partnership with your primary doctor that includes joint decisions and guidance. “We’re a family and a partnership,” he says of his own relationship with his primary care doctor. He recommends an internist, which in his experience are the best at diagnosing illness. He advocates obtaining the cell phone number and email so you can use, but not abuse, them when needed. He also advises that the doctor speaks in plain English that you can understand.

Make sure you have access, both geographically and through your insurance plan, to the widest range of specialists. For this reason, he is not a fan of Medicare Advantage plans, which while inexpensive, also restrict networks and confine members to small geographic areas. “They save you money--until you get sick,” he explains. “Studies show that the sicker you are, the worse the outcomes with Medicare Advantage plans.”

See experts in your specific illness. Work with your primary doctor to find experts who publish on your illness--the subset of your illness. He counsels, “Don’t assume the best expert in your field won’t see you. They will because they want to help, they will learn from you, and you’re ‘a big-ticket item.’” While it may sound crass, your illness generates revenue. With the experts, ask “what’s new and exciting in the field” and inquire about standards of care.

Don’t rush into things, such as experimental treatments and clinical trials. While Lalli ultimately found the treatment that put him into remission he went through various treatment protocols that worked--until they didn’t.

After exhausting approved treatments, then seek more experimental methods. While receiving the standard of care, he also sought out and registered with doctors who were engaged in clinical trials to get onto their lists, should he need to get into one, which he eventually did.

Lalli is adamant that as patients seeking treatment, we must trust ourselves. “If something is wrong, with medicine or with your treatment, don’t be passive. Listen to your body. Bring a friend with you to appointments who can take notes. Ask questions.”

He closed his presentation in true journalistic style, “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

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