ENT doctors: what consumers need to know before a visit

December 5, 2018
ENT is short for Ear, Nose and Throat – doctors that specialize in that part of the body are known as ENTs.  The official name for their specialty is Otolaryngology / Head & Neck Surgery.  Sometimes insurance websites will list them as otolaryngology and not ENT, but they are the same thing.  ENTs commonly put tubes in children’s ears when they have chronic ear infections, treat sinus problems/congestion and evaluate chronic hoarseness (often associated with vocal polyps).
 
When choosing an ENT for yourself or your family, there are three important factors to consider to help improve the cost of your healthcare, without sacrificing quality. 
 
Here are 3 things consumers need to know before their visit to an ENT:
  1. ENTs may perform an in-office test with a device called a nasopharyngascope.  It is a fiber-optic camera that is inserted in the nose to evaluate the nose, throat and vocal cords.  That ‘scope’ test is often billed separately and will most often not be included in the office visit copay.  
  2. ENTs also frequently order CT scans and MRIs of the head and sinuses.  As with other imaging tests, the costs of those CT scans and MRIs is very different depending on where you have them done—even in-network.  A CT scan of the sinuses could cost as much at $800 at one facility and as little as $115 at another—for the same scan.  Often ENTs refer out to several different facilities-maybe one hospital and 2 or 3 different independent imaging centers. Check with the nurse, office manager or scheduler to see what your options are. 
  3. ENTs commonly prescribe antibiotics for sinus infections and many of those antibiotics are available in generic form or have generic therapeutic alternatives.  Also, ENTs commonly prescribe steroid nasal sprays and oral steroid pills—both of those are available generic as well.  
Remember these three important factors before your next ENT visit. You should also always clarify any medical information with your primary care physician.
 
With healthcare navigation services like those from Alight, having a good understanding of your ENT appointment can help you make better choices that fit within your budget.
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