There are a lot of different things you can do to better your health and medical life in 2015. We’ve talked about a few of them so far, and this week we’re bringing our “Fast Track” mini-series to a close with our final topic. Do your research.

Unless you have a pre-existing injury or illness that requires you to frequently have certain procedures done (like a yearly MRI or something like that), then most of you probably don’t enter the new year thinking “I should really get to know the medical centers in my area and the different procedures offered in case something goes wrong this year”. It’s a fact that most people enter the new year optimistic about most things, including their health. No one envisions a year spent with trips to the hospital, hours in an MRI machine, or weeks of physical therapy. And why should they?

Last week we talked about the importance of being prepared for anything. Doing your research is one of the biggest steps you can take towards helping yourself be prepared. We know you don’t assume that you’ll need to know what an MRI machine is, how much it costs, and what facilities even offer them in your area, but the majority of the time the people that we get in our center are the ones who never thought they’d be there.

Even if you don’t anticipate ever needing to undergo a medical procedure, it’s important to have at least some basic knowledge about the various procedures available and what their functions are. At this point in our lives, we should all know the difference between a CT scan and an MRI. We should all know that ultrasounds aren’t just for pregnant women. We should all know how an x-ray machine works and that medical procedures are actually pretty expensive. We should know what our insurance covers and what we’ll have to pay out of pocket. We should know how to find information about prices and quality of care online. We should know where we’d go for a procedure in the rare case that we end up needing one.

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, if you don’t know where you would go for a CT or MRI and you’re not sure how much they even cost, then block out some time this weekend to do your research. It’s important to have a plan in place so you don’t get caught off-guard when an unexpected medical issue hits you.