Top 10 Steps For Improving Your Next Doctor's Visit
As the parent of a special needs child and as a board certified patient advocate, I have been to 100's and perhaps, even, 1000's of doctor visits. Over the years, I have learned that one can make these visits much more efficient by doing a little pre-visit preparation. It doesn't take much.
So I've put together this list of items that everyone should bring to every visit. Even if you are part of an HMO (who might have a great patient portal system), you'll never go wrong with this list.
Prescription List: At the start of every doctor visit, you should hand them a sheet with your current medication list. This should contain the drug name, dosage, frequency, prescribing doctor and condition being treated. You can download a form here.
Supplement List: Doctors also need to know what supplements you are taking. This can include vitamins, minerals, herbs, homeopathic solutions, etc. Use the same form as above (but you can leave out the doctor's name if it is not relevant).
Notebook/Pen: Some facilities give you an excellent post-visit note printout. Many do not. Regardless, you will want to take notes during your visit. Don't trust your memory. Believe me, there's too much going on in a visit to do so.
Medical History: This can be a simple spreadsheet or other form that lists your significant conditions, surgeries (outpatient and in-patient), the date of occurrence and the doctor who treated you. This may take a little time to put together initially. But when you bring this printout to a new doctor visit, you'll really be grateful for having it. Trying to complete new patient forms and remembering everything is extremely annoying and you don't want to leave out anything important. You can download a form here.
List of Recent Tests: If you are in an HMO or a PPO medical group, your tests should populate on your medical record automatically. But if you are seeing individual doctors, it is quite common for test results not to be sent to your medical team. So always ask for a copy of your recent test results and bring it with you to your appointments.
List of Non-traditional Therapies: Your visits to a chiropractor, acupuncturist, naturopath, or any other alternative therapy will not show up on your medical records. Keep a running list of these type of treatments which you can show your doctor. These therapies are becoming more accepted and can give your doctor a better understanding of what is working or not.
List of Questions: An office visit can get very confusing and often your doctor is trying to make the most of their limited time with you. A list of questions is the best way to make sure that you don't have regrets once those elevator doors close.
Journal of Symptoms: Doctors need data to make a good diagnosis or treatment suggestions. The more information that you can provide, the better that they can be at their job. Keeping a journal of your symptoms is one of the best ways that you can help your doctor make medical decisions. (Note: Click here to check out my app, My Symptom Tracker.)
Another Person (Family or Friend): If you are seeing a doctor, chances are pretty good that you are not feeling well. This means that you are not operating at your best. It is important to have another person who can listen, take notes, ask questions or just offer emotional support. (Note: this is what I do as a patient advocate.)
Healthy Snack: Wait times in a doctor's office can be very unpredictable. Bringing a healthy snack can keep your energy going. Which, in turn, will keep you alert and able to better focus on what the doctor is saying. Just make sure it's not too messy and avoid common allergens such as peanuts.