I often get questions from patients about why they need make a follow-up doctors appointment as often as they do. In fact, my own family says that follow up visits are only beneficial for the provider's pocket. This couldn't be further from the truth.
The frequency of follow-up doctors appointment should be based on the condition of the patient.
Your Plan of Care Should Always Be:
Ask Your Doctor For a Safe Plan of Care at Your Doctors Appointment
Some medications need to be monitored closely to make sure they don't cause problems. For example, warfarin (also known as Coumadin) is a common blood thinner used to prevent or treat blood clots. Frequent laboratory monitoring is needed to make sure the warfarin dose is correct. If the dose is too low, there is an increased risk for blood clots; if the dose is too high, there is an increased risk of bleeding.
Make Sure Your Health Plan is Effective
Another reason for a follow-up doctors appointment is to make sure a treatment is effective. For instance, one of the most common reasons for follow-up is blood pressure monitoring. By monitoring your blood pressure from home we can get an idea of what your daily blood pressure looks like. But what we really want to make sure is that your home blood pressure cuff is accurate.
Therefore, if you can bring your cuff into the clinic, we can test it's accuracy. The last thing we want to do is to base our treatment decisions on bad information. For example, if your cuff is too big, it could falsely lower your blood pressure and make us think we have your blood pressure in good control. When in reality, your pressure is too high, increasing your risk of kidney, heart, and blood vessel damage.
You Should Be Able to Tolerate Your Health Plans
Finally, we want to make sure your plan is tolerable. Your plan could be perfectly safe and effective, but it may cause a side effect that you just can't deal with on a daily basis.
It's important in this situation to let your provider know if you need adjustments made. If we don't know about a side effect or that you've stopped taking your medication, we assume everything is going well and your condition is controlled. In other words, we can't fix what we don't know is broken!
Some other examples of intolerable side effects caused by treatments could be cause by high blood pressure medications which can cause a dry and annoying cough.
Some patients may search Google for their symptoms, determine it's a side effect of the medication, and just stop taking it. When we are dealing with high blood pressure it's important to not assume that you don't need your medication if you're feeling fine.
Patients with high blood pressure can have a heart attack or stroke if their not taking their medication. the better option here is to talk to your physician and see if you can switch to a different medication that's more tolerable.
A Follow-Up Doctors Appointment Is Good For You
Just as we want you to follow up with us, we want to follow-up with you. The idea behind a follow-up doctors appointment is to make the most out of your visit including your most up-to-date contact information, such as address and phone number. That way we can give you the results of any testing we've done.
It's also important to make sure your voicemail is working. We often try to call patients with results only to discover their phone number has been disconnected, or their voicemail box is full or has not been set up.
Another option for follow-up is your MyChart or other patient portal account, where you can get lab results and send messages to your provider and office staff. If we have tried multiple times to reach you and still cannot, we will send a letter to your address on file with the message we were trying to give you.
If you are not sure when you are due to follow up, contact your provider. As a general rule, even if you don't have any chronic conditions, an annual physical is recommended to make sure you are up to date on your wellness screenings and to help you achieve your health goals.