6 Ways to Make the Most of Your Medical Appointments
Every day, delivery of medical care becomes more streamlined and transparent. As a center of excellence, where the highest standard of health care delivery and the highest quality of care in the region, we want to make your appointments as productive as possible.
Doctors, both generalists and specialists, have constraints on their time. New practices and new approaches need to happen in order to maximize everyone’s time. In addition to bringing your co-payment, you should “invest” in the visit and do your part, so that by the time the visit has ended, a SUCCESSFUL plan of care is developed.
How to Maximize Your Doctor’s Time
The relationship between you and your doctor is a special one based on trust and mutual respect. It is important to ask questions that concern you — up front. It is normal to feel uncomfortable about discussing certain topics such as antibiotics after sexual intercourse. However, if you don’t tell me, I can’t help you.
Bring Your Records and List of Medications
What if the electronic medical record is down, what if we can’t find your chart, what if you see a doctor in a different system? Although exceedingly rare, problems do occur. Google Health, a flash drive with records, or paper all can speed up the process. Then you don’t have to wait for “old records” to be faxed to the clinic. Not infrequently I hear, “They told me they were going to send the records.” Although people’s intentions are good, sometimes records do not get sent by the time of the appointment.
A list of medications is also necessary to know what the provider should or should not prescribe. Some medicines interact with prescription medication, and these interactions can adversely affect therapy. For example, there is a known interaction between warfarin (coumadin) and cranberry juice that can affect INR (blood thinning) levels. Your doctor needs to know how you are treating particular conditions such as the prevention of urinary tract infection.
Also, just know that repetition is a good thing. Sometimes patients get annoyed that they have to repeat information. For clarity, I like it. Although the nurse may take your current medication list for the chart, I like to see what you are taking. Bringing an up to date list saves both you and me valuable time because I can read quickly.
Know Your Doctor and Why You See Them
“Dr. A treats my blood pressure. Dr. B, the cardiologist, treats my heart failure and put in my pacemaker. Dr. C, the internist, treats my high cholesterol.” Why is this tip so important? Dr. C may assume that Dr. B is treating high cholesterol. Dr. B may assume that Dr. C is treating high cholesterol. And the end result is nobody is treating the high cholesterol! By defining who takes care of which problem, nothing inadvertently gets missed. Also, please remember to ask for a business card. Consider bringing these cards with you to every visit.
Bring a Family Member for Support if Needed
Friends are also welcome. Accompanied by friends and family, you can have advocates present to help you understand what the doctor said or write down key points learned at the visit.
Make Sure You Understand Next Steps
When will you see the doctor next? When does a blood draw need to happen? Also, make sure there is a mechanism in place so that if your symptoms worsen or don’t improve you can get help. Emergency room visits or hospitalizations can be prevented!
“Doctor-speak” is foreign to most consumers of healthcare. These words are important however because that’s how providers communicate with one another. You need to know the words and what they mean. I’m not asking you to memorize a medical dictionary, just the words used to describe the conditions you have. My job is to help explain what those words mean. I frequently write the patient’s diagnosis on a piece of paper and provide a description of what that means. Feel free to look up the terms on the internet to learn more or ask me if you don’t understand what I’m talking about! In the event you can’t remember your diagnoses, make sure you always have an updated list with you so that your provider can take great care of you.
Remember, we all must work as a team to help make the medical visit productive and valuable. Communication is the key to getting value from your medical appointment. Mutual understanding and shared decision making helps you adhere to the medical plan and helps me give you world class care.
Original post date: July 2010. Revised: August 2019.
These blogs were written by the CHI Health Primary Care Team.