No matter how well-trained, motivated and compassionate your doctor is, you might not be getting as much out of your health visits as you can. The good news is that there are several things you can do to make the most of your office appointments.
Here are some helpful tips from a doctor about what you can do make your time together as meaningful as possible.
Make sure you know the correct date, time and location of your appointment. If you have not been to that location before, look it up so you know where you’re going. Make sure to bring your identification, insurance card, and a list of your current medicines and allergies. If you are seeing a specialist, know the name of your primary care provider so the specialist can send a letter summarizing the visit. If the doctor might need to examine you, wear clothes that are easy to take off and put on.
If you are seeing a doctor for the first time, you might be told to expect new patient paperwork in the mail. Look for it. If you do not receive it, call the office. People in the office might be able to email it to you. Then fill it out. Do not try to decide what you think the doctor needs to know and withhold information. Humor the doctor by filling it out accurately and completely. Office personnel are accustomed to seeing information presented in a certain way, and may need to follow a sequence for computer entry of information.
Consider bringing another person with you to your appointment to act as another set of eyes and ears. On the other hand if you have young, active children consider leaving them with a sitter so you can focus on your visit.
Often you will be told both an appointment time and an arrival time. Take traffic and unfamiliar surroundings into consideration when planning travel time. You may have to sign more forms after you arrive, so if you arrive just before your appointment time you will be behind. If you are flustered because you are late, you will not be thinking clearly when it is your turn to see the doctor.
It’s not fair and it shouldn’t be this way, but at times you will have to wait. Bring a book or another diversion to occupy yourself while you wait. You will be in a better mood when it’s your turn to see the doctor.
Your health demands focus. Turn off your phone when the doctor or nurse is in the room.
This is one of the most important points. Think about the reason for your visit, and tell the doctor or nurse practitioner within the first few minutes. Do not tell a story to explain the background or build dramatic effect; these can come out with further discussion. Get right to the point. For example, “I am here to discuss my blood pressure medicine. My blood pressure has been high, and I am having strange sensations. I wonder whether they might be side effects of the medicine.”
Be there mentally and take part in your visit. Your doctor or nurse practitioner is making decisions based on your responses to questions, so answer questions as best you can. Do not say what you think they want to hear. For example if your physician prescribes a medication but you do not take it, say so. Or if your doctor explains the results of a test and asks whether you understand, do not say yes if you do not.
9. Pen and paper
If you do not have a scribe to help you, bring something to make notes about the topics you discussed. You might even ask the doctor to review what you wrote to ensure it is accurate. Keep your notes in a binder or notebook, and bring it with you to every appointment.
This is very important. Make sure you understand the plan before the visit ends. For example you might say, “So I am going to stop taking Toprol, and start Diovan. I am going to come back in 6 weeks for blood work and a recheck. Is that right?” You both should be clear about what should happen next.
Being an advocate for your own healthcare does not mean you have to be suspicious or confrontational, but it does require some thought. It will help you to think about your appointment before, during and after the visit. You will learn more about your health, be more satisfied with your experience, and position yourself for a longer, happier life.
Remember your P’s!
Dr. David Lipski practices venous and lymphatic medicine at KentuckyOne Health Vein Care Associates.