Monday, February 8, 2016

How to Get the Most Out of Your Doctor Visits

I am a Registered Nurse so I interact on a regular basis with both physicians and patients.  I am a patient at times as well.  In today's post I would like to discuss some ways you can get the most out of your next annual physical appointment.  Being prepared will lead to less frustration and better use of the appointment time.

1.  Make a list before your appointment.  Write down a list of questions you have about your medications, your condition or illness, symptoms you are having, self-care or homeopathic interventions available, etc.  This is your scheduled time so be prepared!

2.  Take any medications prescribed by another provider to your appointment so the physician can make note of ALL your medications.  Take any bottles (or an accurate list) of vitamins, minerals, or supplements you take--some may interfere with medications you are prescribed.  Also, believe it or not, some foods will interact with certain medications--grapefruit will affect some types of blood pressure medications.

3.  If your doctor prescribes a diagnostic test or blood work or changes a medication and you aren't sure why, ask!  Information is powerful and you have the right to be informed.  

4.  If you aren't sure you understand  the information the doctor has given you, ask him to clarify.  A caring provider will take the time to educate you (or ask his RN to).  Perhaps there is a handout you can take home to refer to or a health team member (think RN, dietician, social worker, etc.) who can advise you and answer your questions.  Pharmacists are great resources, as well.

5.  When does the doctor want you to follow up?  Do you need to have prescriptions renewed or a lab appointment scheduled? If the doctor has ordered radiology or other diagnostic testing, make sure you have the signed order or you know that the office will arrange an appointment for you.  Know this information before you leave the office.

6.  I myself always ask for a copy of my lab results or radiology report.  Some labs, such as LabCorp, will mail you a copy of your results once the ordering physician has received them.  I ask for the copy to be mailed to me during lab check-in.  By keeping a copy of lab work or radiology reports, you will have them accessible to share with a new provider if needed.  Lab results can be a great historian of your cholesterol, blood sugar readings, overall health, etc.

7.  If you don't get a phone call or letter informing of results of any testing you have after you see the doctor and you don't have a follow up appointment, call to ask for results.  In this case, no news isn't necessarily good news!

Basically, be prepared before your doctor's appointment so you don't walk out the door and think, "I forgot to ask!"  Make the most of your time!  If you have a provider who doesn't want to answer questions, doesn't give you a clear answer, or feels as if you are "questioning" his or her advice, you might want to re-think your choice of doctors.  Yes, they do spend many years learning their skills and info but you are paying them to assist you in maintaining the healthiest "you" there can be--you are a team with your provider and should be treated as such.

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