Few systems provoke more frustration and distress than health care.

When we can't get in to see the doctor, it feels personal. When we're stuck with an unexpected hospital bill, it feels desperate. When specialists speak in indecipherable acronyms or shuffle us from room to room without explanation, it feels like we're powerless to make our own decisions.

If you're new to the Yakima Valley, you may already know that trying to find a primary care doctor or specialist can be a challenge. It's much the same for longtime residents who haven't yet had the need or who want to change doctors. Fact is, while area residents can find much the same health care options in the Yakima Valley as they can in larger metropolitan areas, getting to that expertise and experience isn't easy and often is confusing and overwhelming.

In this special premium section, you'll find health care information ranging from the area's top health concerns to profiles of specialty services, including orthopedics, cardiac care and mental health; when to seek a second opinion or head out of the area for care; issues that consumers face when paying the bills; a handy timeline of recommended medical screenings and evaluations; and more.

This guide is designed to address some of the most common questions and concerns facing health care consumers in the Yakima Valley. While it cannot provide every answer, we hope it's at least a good place to start.