Friday, May 1, 2009

How to Optimize Doctor Visits by Donna Verry Dee

Making the Most of Your Next Appointment

You wait weeks for an appointment, rearrange your schedule to arrive on time, sit in the waiting room for at least half an hour and then, finally, you are face to face with your doctor. This is your chance to get your needs met.
And you only have about 15 minutes to do it. How can you make the most out of your limited time?

The most satisfying doctor visits begin long before you enter the examination room. As the patient, it is your job to come prepared. Here are some strategies for optimizing your next visit to the doctor.

Get Organized
Keep a diary to track symptoms or health complaints, recommends Carol J. Levy, author of A Pained Life, which chronicles her experiences as a chronic pain patient. "This way you can give a better picture of the timeline of what is wrong, as well as how the symptoms have waxed and waned or what makes them
better or worse." Before your appointment, summarize your findings into a few sentences and bring them with you. "
The anxiety inherent in seeing the doctor as well as the time crunch makes forgetting what we meant to say way too easy to do."

Know Your Medications and Tests
“To help you get the treatment you need, doctors need to know what tests you’ve had – and when – as well as what medications you’re taking,” says Dr. Michael Pignone, chief of the division of general internal medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This eliminates the expense and inconvenience of duplicate testing and reduces the chances of a doctor prescribing medication that has a bad interaction with something you're already taking. The more doctors that are involved in your healthcare, the more important this step becomes.

But shouldn't your doctor already know what medication you're taking? Yes, in an ideal world where information was shared instantly among all of your health care providers and where every patient followed doctor's orders exactly. "What really matters is what pill bottles are in the home and exactly what
medications at what doses the patient is actually taking and swallowing as of
today. Only the patient knows that," says Carla Mills A.R.N.P., author of A Nurse Practitioner's Guide to Smart Health Choices . "A patient carrying a copy of their current med list carries the ultimate check and balance.

Set Goals for the Visit

Decide what you want to achieve from the visit. "Have your top three concerns written down," says holistic chiropractor Dr. Tom Hyland Robertson. "Let your doctor know that you have three concerns - or two or only one - at the beginning of the visit. This will help to streamline [the doctor's] thought processes."

Speak the Language
One of the most powerful things a patient can do is to speak the doctor's language, according to LaRita B. Jacobsa health educator for people with chronic illness. Jacobs teaches seminars on communicating with doctors. She says . "Doctor's think in terms of Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). You will get the doctor's attention if you also speak in terms of ADLs. For example, if I speak to my doctor and tell her that it hurts to have my hands above my head, I may get a patronizing answer reminding me that with the arthritis in my shoulder I can't expect to play tennis. However, when I say 'After I unload the dishwasher I am in so much pain I need to lie down to recover,' I have given the doctor context."

Be an Active Listener
As your doctor talks to you, ask for definitions or clarifications of any words or instructions you don't understand. Take notes or have someone come with you to take notes while the doctor gives instructions. Paraphrase the information back to your healthcare provider so he or she can determine whether the message is clear. If you're still unsure about something, request additional information. 

The bottom line is, a passive patient, who sits back and lets the doctor call the shots, is more likely to leave the office unsatisfied, with lingering questions and festering symptoms. A pro-active patient, who takes initiative, sets goals and expresses opinions and concerns is destined to have a more effective healthcare experience.

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Images courtesy of Stock.xchng

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