Have you ever gotten home from a doctor visit and realized you forgot to mention something you wanted to talk about? Or maybe you arrived at your visit without important information, like the name of the new medication a specialist prescribed. Your next appointment may not be scheduled for months, and it’s often difficult to make time for an extra trip. Yet, good communication is essential for insuring that all your health needs are met. So, whether you are seeing a new provider, or returning for a follow-up appointment, here are some tips to make sure you get the most from all of your primary care visits.
The time to organize your thoughts is before you get to your appointment. Preparing ahead of time will help you maximize the time you spend with your provider. Write your questions down and bring the list to the appointment with you. If you’ve researched a new treatment or have questions about a specific illness, don’t bring pages of literature with you. There’s just not enough time to review this during an office visit. It’s better to add these concerns to your list of questions so that you don’t get bogged down on one topic and miss out on addressing other health issues.
To create the best plan to meet your healthcare needs, it is important that you supply all pertinent information. If you have orders for blood work, X-rays, or other diagnostic tests, make sure you complete them in enough time that the results have been sent to the office. Also, if you had any “homework,” such as keeping a log of your blood sugars or blood pressures, make sure you bring it to the visit. And, if you have seen a specialist, have been to an emergency room, or have been in the hospital, it is best if you arrange for your records to be forwarded to your primary care office before your scheduled visit. This gives your doctor the time to review the information before you arrive, leaving more time for discussion and your physical exam.
If you are seeing a new primary care provider for the first time, it is even more important that you arrive with updated and accurate information. Try to have your medical records, including all your past immunizations, forwarded before your visit. It is also a good idea for you to write out your medical history, chronologically, in your own words and bring it to the visit. Additionally, you should include a history of any illnesses your siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents had and the age that these illnesses occurred. This overview will give your new provider an even better picture of your healthcare needs.
All of Your Medications Matter
It cannot be stressed enough how important it is that your doctor know ALL the medications you are taking. Five to 17% of all hospitalizations of older patients are the result of problems with medications; and drug interactions cost billions of dollars while increasing the average hospital stay by 7 days. Bring a complete list of all the medications, over the counter drugs, vitamins, herbs and supplements you are taking. It is also important to list the dosage and how many times per day you are taking them. Try to include why you are taking these medications and who originally prescribed them if you can. If you are unsure, or have any questions about what information is important regarding your medications, just put everything you are taking on a regular basis into a shopping bag, and bring it to the appointment. Updating your medication record is an important part of every visit, so make a routine of bringing updates regularly.
Use your Time Wisely
It is important to have a good relationship with your provider and he or she is genuinely interested in you, but be realistic about what can be accomplished in one visit. If you have a number of health issues, it is important to organize your thoughts and address all of your concerns. While telling stories may be entertaining, it may not be productive and could take time away from discussing important issues. So, budget your time and try to stay focused on your health. This is also not the time to paint rosy pictures or avoid embarrassing topics. Honesty and full disclosure will go a long way to help you achieve health. Use your primary care visit to its fullest potential by trusting your provider with sincere information.
Don’t Go It Alone
Sometimes you might have a lot to discuss at your visit, or you might be worried about the results of your tests. Not everyone is comfortable with medical information, so you may have trouble remembering everything your doctor tells you during a visit. In these situations, you might bring a trusted friend, spouse or family member with you. They can offer you support, take notes for you, help you remember to cover all your concerns, or maybe even think of questions that you don’t.
Leave with a Plan
So now you have gone prepared, brought all your important information with you, and reviewed all of your concerns and test results. Most likely, there will be recommendations to be followed, prescriptions to be filled, or follow up testing to be done. Often, you will be advised to return within a certain amount of time. Make sure you understand all that is expected of you. Your health depends on it! So, ask questions, take notes, and clarify what you may not understand. Make sure you know the plan, agree with the plan, and are capable of carrying out all that is recommended. By arriving prepared, making the most of your time during the visit, and leaving with a good understanding of a realistic plan, you will have made the most of your primary care visit, and will be well on your way to good health.
At Advanced Medical PA, we look forward to providing you with all your primary care needs. To learn more about us and the services we offer, or to schedule your primary care visit, call us at (561) 434-1935 to request an appointment, or request one online.