Building Your Healthcare Team (Continued)
The First Appointment
After choosing a doctor, make your first appointment. This visit is a time for you to get to know the doctor and for the doctor to get to know you.
During your first appointment, the doctor or nurse will likely ask you questions about your current health and the medical history of your family. This information will also be added to your medical record.
Research has shown that patients who have a good relationship with their doctors tend to be more satisfied with their care — and to have better results. Here are some tips to help you and your doctor become partners.
1 – Give information. Don't wait to be asked!
- You know important things about your symptoms and your health history. Tell your doctor what you think he or she needs to know.
- It is important to tell your doctor personal information—even if it makes you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable.
- Always bring any medicines you are taking, or a list of those medicines. Include both prescription and over-the-counter drugs, even vitamins, supplements, and eye drops. Also include when and how often you take them. Talk about any allergies or reactions you have had to your medicines.
- Tell your doctor about any natural or alternative medicines and treatments.
- Bring other medical information, such as x-ray films, test results, and medical records.
2 – Get information
- Ask questions. If you don't, your doctor may think you understand everything that was said.
- Write down your questions before your visit. List the most important ones first to make sure they get asked and answered.
- You might want to bring someone along to help you ask questions. This person can also help you understand and/or remember the answers.
- Ask your doctor to draw pictures if that might help to explain something.
- Take notes.
- Some doctors do not mind if you bring a tape recorder to help you remember things. But always ask first.
- Let your doctor know if you need more time. If there is not time that day, perhaps you can speak to a nurse or physician assistant on staff. Or, ask if you can call later to speak with someone.
- If it's important to you, find out if you can bring a family member (spouse, daughter, or son) to office visits or if the doctor is willing to talk with your family about your condition if you give permission.
3 – Take information home.
- If you have questions, call.
- If your symptoms get worse, or if you have problems with your medicine, call.
- If you had tests and do not hear from your doctor, call for your test results.
- If your doctor said you need to have certain tests, make appointments at the lab or other offices to get them done.
- If your doctor said you should see a specialist, make an appointment.
After your first visit, think about if you felt comfortable and confident with this doctor. For example, were you at ease asking questions? Did the doctor clearly answer your questions? Were you treated with respect? Did you feel that your questions were considered thoughtfully? Did you feel the doctor hurried or did not address all your concerns? If you are still not sure the doctor is right for you, schedule a visit with one of the other doctors on your list.
Remember, you are in control. You do not have to use a particular doctor just because another doctor recommended them. And if you do choose to visit the referral but you are not comfortable with that doctor for any reason, don't be afraid to keep looking. If your choices, however, are too limited and you find you need to stay where you are, then it may be helpful to schedule a separate appointment where you can discuss your concerns with your doctor.
Once you find a doctor you like, your job is not finished. Make sure to have your medical records sent to your new doctor. Your former doctor may charge you for mailing your records.
Remember that a good doctor-patient relationship is a partnership and key to building a quality healthcare team. Regular office visits and open communication with the doctor and office staff are key to maintaining this partnership, treating your medical problems effectively, and keeping you in good health.
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As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the benefits that made it cost-effective for me to go with the real healthcare (HSA) plan rather than the phony (HRA) plan is that my company is now covering "preventative" medicines at $0 copay. The formulary for these, as stated by CVS/Caremark (my pharmacy benefits provider), covers all test strips, lancets, and control solutions. I dutifully get my doctor to write up prescriptions for all of my testing needs, submit...