We know it’s no small feat to fit a doctor’s appointment into your day, even when you know it’s important. That’s why we want to help you to get the very most out of each visit. To that end, we will publish a series of posts (three of them) with tips on how to get the most out of your time with your doctor: before, during, and even after your appointment.
Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” –Alexander Graham Bell
We believe what Dr. Bell said is especially true in medicine. That goes for us–as your providers, as well as you–as your own best advocate. Taking care of your health requires a partnership between you and your provider that starts even before you walk through the office door. The preparation you do ahead of time can help you prioritize and make the most of your time in the exam room.
Find out about your provider
The best place to start your own preparation is to make sure that your providers have done all the preparation to best help you. This means checking that they have the proper training, licenses or certifications for the expertise they claim to have. Here in Texas, you can easily do this at the Texas Medical Board and the Texas Board of Nursing.
Medical and Nursing boards like these have done all the background checking for you. To become board certified, practitioners have to meet rigorous educational and training standards, pass written exams, and have no criminal or disciplinary history.
Once you know they are legitimately qualified, you can consider their bedside manner. Ask around and find out if any of your friends or colleagues have seen the doctor you are about to see and what they think. You can also check them out on their practice website.
Set your goals
Once you have decided on a healthcare provider, you can get to work on preparing yourself for the day of your visit. Having a clear objective at the outset will help you ask the right questions and address the most pressing concerns during your appointment. It helps to keep a log of any health concerns or symptoms you have.
Before your appointment put them in order of priority to make sure you don’t miss the big things. It helps to have a written list to bring with you. It is not uncommon for patients to get a little nervous at the time of their visit and forget something they wanted to talk about.
Get your health history in hand
So much of your current state of health has to do with your past state of health. Your medical record is invaluable in helping your doctor recommend the best treatment for you. If you are seeing a doctor for the first time, bring any medical records you have, or arrange to have them transferred from another provider ahead of time.
If the doctor’s office already has your medical record, then focus on what has been happening with your health lately. For example, write down any symptoms you’ve been having and anything you have tried to relieve them. This includes over-the-counter medications, herbs, vitamins or supplements or any other treatments you’ve tried.
Write down the name of your preferred pharmacy and make a list of any medications you take. Make sure to include the dosages too. Your medication list should include all medicines you take, even over-the-counter meds or those not related to your current symptoms. You can also include a list of previous medications and why you stopped taking them.
Address potential obstacles
Location and transportation
It may sound obvious to make sure you know where the office is and how you are going to get there. But it is not so uncommon for people to get lost on the way or underestimate travel time on the first visit.
Friend or family member
Your health is important and it can be emotional to deal with certain issues. If you think you may need the support, ask a friend or family member to accompany you to your appointment. They can help make sure you you get what you need from the visit if you get flustered or forgetful.
If you speak another language, it’s important to call the doctor’s office ahead of time to find out if they can help provide language support. There may be a provider already in the office who speaks your language and can arrange to be there. There are also organizations that provide medical translation that can be arranged.
Forms, ID, and Insurance cards
Very often when you first see a doctor, their office will tell you to come at least fifteen minutes before your appointment. This time is so you can register and fill out any forms. You will also need to bring a photo ID and any insurance cards you have, so the staff can make copies. This is usually true even if you have given them this information over the phone.
You don’t have to wait until the day of your appointment to do any of this either. Call the office ahead and find out what they need you to bring or fill out. Then stop in ahead of time to get it all taken care of. Our registration forms are online, so you can download and fill them out at home.
It is important to remember that you are a full partner when it comes to your health. We are here for you, and the more you prepare, the better we will be able to help you. Stay tuned for part 2 of this series, where we will give you tips on how to make the most of your time when you are actually in the office with your doctor.