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By: Dr. Joanne Z Moore, PT, DHSC, OCS

We put some time and care in selecting our doctor. The doctor has spent years in study and practice. When we meet with our doctor, we want to get the most benefit from our time together. As with any other meeting, planning is necessary.

Check out the policies of the practice you plan to visit. Do they accept your insurance? If so, be sure to bring your insurance card. If you won’t be using insurance, ask if there is a discount for prompt payment, or if they have payment plans over time.

Get a notebook to document your questions, the doctor’s answers, and instructions for follow up. Before you leave home, make three lists, and put copies of them in your notebook: medications that you take, your medical history, and your family history. For example:

Medications

Condition

Medication

Dose

Frequency

High blood pressure

Lisinopril

10 mg, orally

Daily

Do you feel that you are tolerating the medications that you are taking? Do you think you might be having any side effects? Is it a financial hardship for you to get the medications? Be sure to report answers to these questions to your doctor.

Past Medical History: If you are beginning care with a new physician, it might be helpful to bring any records from your previous doctor. Include surgeries, infections, cancer, heart disease, orthopedic injuries, chronic conditions, addictions, and any hospitalizations. Include a description of how well you sleep, whether you smoke or use drugs or alcohol, and sexual lifestyle. Describe your nutritional status, whether your weight is stable, and whether you exercise regularly. It will also help your doctor to understand any life changes that you are experiencing now. What tests have you had done in the past 5 years? Include colonoscopy, blood work, eye exams, mammogram or prostate testing, and bone density tests. Include your vaccination history. If you are under the care of other physicians, note their names and the reason.  

Problem

Date 

Treatment

Fractured wrist

December 2012

Surgery -  Dr. Goodman

Family Medical History

Include your biological parents, siblings and children. List their medical problems.


Your Concerns

If you are seeing the doctor because of a certain problem, be prepared to describe the symptoms you are now experiencing. Be as specific as you can be. Include when it started and why you think it started. Is it constant or intermittent? Does it vary throughout the day? What seems to aggravate the condition, and what relieves it? How does it impact your activities of daily living? Does it interrupt your sleep? What have you already tried? Be honest when answering all questions.

Arthur Landry, MD, cardiologist, adds this advice:  “If the patient does not clearly understand the diagnosis, treatment plan, or medications, then the patient should express that clearly to the health care provider. Also, if they are doubtful or confused about their management, they should ask for answers. If they are frustrated with getting clear answers or find they are losing trust in their caregiver, particularly if the condition is serious and not improving, they should not hesitate to obtain another opinion. If they decide to do this and want to continue their care with their current provider, it is recommended that they share this decision with the provider and ask that records be forwarded to the independent consultant with the understanding that a complete report will be sent to the provider from the consultant summarizing his findings and recommendations. This provides an honest and transparent process that is usually well accepted by patient and caregiver.”

If you are seeing the doctor for a routine physical, ask what tests should be done at your age. How often should you get a physical? Ask how you can communicate with the doctor between visits. Does s/he use email, or phone? How will you receive test results? Who covers for the doctor if s/he is off when you are ill? What hospital is the doctor affiliated with?

Though it sounds morbid, it’s a good idea to inform your doctor of your wishes concerning end of life issues. If you have a living will, leave a copy with your doctor. Also provide the name and contact information of the person who has your medical power of attorney. Give the name and contact information of people who can be informed of your medical condition, and who should be called in an emergency.

After the Appointment:

Be sure to schedule and receive all the tests and vaccinations that are ordered. Be sure that you understand the results when they arrive. Follow your doctor’s instructions. If you are unable to do as you’re advised for any reason, report the problem to the doctor. For example, if a medication is not agreeing with you, don’t just stop taking it. There’s usually a substitute medication that will do the trick without the side effect. Along that line, when you fill a prescription for a new medication, you can ask for just 2 or 3 days worth of pills. Then, if you’re tolerating it well, you can fill the rest of the prescription. That strategy saves money if you don’t like the medicine.

Be sure to show respect and appreciation to the office staff, who work under a good deal of pressure to support the medical process. A good relationship with them will make your visits more pleasant.

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