The Clinic Appointment: Maximizing your Meeting
Dr. G checking in! Today, I am going to discuss how you can maximize your visits with your providers. This was one of the first things that I worked on with Cristina when it came to Oscar. At the time, I was a medical student and the sheer thought of being on Oskie’s case was down right overwhelming, seeing as they were basically tossing around diagnoses like Mardi Gras beads at a breastfeeding conference. I knew that we had to be organized and have a plan of attack because there was a long and complex road ahead of my sister. However, you don’t have to be as extra as Oskie to be able to use these tips- You just have to have a pulse… and an appointment with a healthcare provider.
*Before even getting started, make sure that you know your insurance and what providers will accept your insurance. Not all providers take all insurances and this can vary from year to year. If you don’t have insurance, find a provider that will take self-pay patients. Also know that for certain types of insurances, you may need a referral to see a specialist and for others types, you can pick whichever specialist that you like (if they accept your insurance). There is SO much more to know in navigating this part of healthcare but this is a good start for now. Once you have your provider chosen and your appointment is set up, you can follow these tips:
My most important piece of advice is to treat your appointment like a MEETING. I have experience as a patient and as a physician, and I can tell you that you’ll want to be prepared before showing up to your appointment in order to maximize time with your provider. For your meeting, make sure to set goals before going in. This way, the appointment stays focused on the reasons you came in. Once the meeting is over, make sure you know and understand the action plan. This will help you understand what is being done for the next visit and why. You would not show up to a business meeting empty handed and unprepared, so treat this the same way. This requires some work and preparation on your part, but it will pay off in the end. You will find that your appointments will be more efficient, comprehensive, and beneficial. There is nothing more important than efficiency and patient satisfaction when insurance makes it so that you only have 10-15 minutes for appointments. So, let’s get started.
Doc, you ask? How do I show up prepared? What the hell am I supposed to show up with? Shouldn’t the doc know everything since records are electronic now?!
Good question. If we were living in a perfect world, the answer would be yes, you’re right. But, we are not living in a perfect world and that means that taking an appointment from decent to AWESOME means that you may have to put in some work, too.
I will make it easy for you.
Let me start by explaining that every office, hospital, emergency department, urgent care, surgical center, etc has a different electronic medical records (EMR) system. This means that each of the systems are independent of each other, don’t automatically update from one place to the next, and things are easily lost amongst the chaos. EMR systems are also extremely complex, prone to user error, and constantly changing — so reliability can be less than perfect. (Very frustrating for us docs, too. I promise).
What does this mean for you?
Keep copies of all of your records. As a patient, you are entitled to every single medical record that is about you or your child. You can request copies from the medical records department, and keep physical copies in a file cabinet, or scan them to your own computer. There are various smart-phone apps to help keep all of this organized. I cannot begin to tell you how much more efficient and useful my time is as a provider when I have a complete history. If I am seeing someone for a visit, and I don’t have any information to go off of, most of my time will be spent trying to find the missing pieces instead of focusing on the issue at hand. It’s even more helpful every time that you visit a different location or office, to ask to have the records sent to the primary care doctor, the “quarterback” of your medical care. That way, everything is in one place and stays up to date.
Keep a list of medications and make sure that it is UPDATED. Include EVERYTHING: prescription meds, vitamins, CBD oil, teas, essential oils etc. Every visit with my patients I am checking for interactions, side effects, and efficacy of medications and supplements. There are so many over the counter products that can interact with prescription meds, and the more that your provider knows, the better. We can make sure that everything is given safely and smartly (is that a word?). Let us look up answers to questions about over-the-counter products and discuss with you! We are nerds and we love to do this.
tip: if you are starting a new med, keep a log of any side effects that you notice and bring in to your follow up visit. This way, if something needs to be adjusted, we can do that for you! Everyone is different and will respond to medications differently.
tip: make sure that you understand the instructions at the end of your visit and if you don’t understand or need clarification, ASK. Call us up later that day, a week from then, a month later if you forget! We want you to be compliant and do things correctly so that we can properly assess medication efficacy.
Every time you think of a question that you want to ask your doc, write it down and bring it to the next visit. This way, you won’t leave and then suddenly your brain will decide to remember that burning question that you had to ask but, of course, forgot at the time of the visit, and now an hour later at the grocery it’s all coming back to you. I keep a list in my phone for my personal doc.
If you are like Oscar, and are medically complex, all of this is that much more important because things are being updated, adjusted, and changed regularly… between 10 different specialists. Staying organized saves lives!
Getting the most out of your provider visits depends on you and your doc. Your preparation helps us to do the best at our job! If you aren’t satisfied with your doc, you can always change. Don’t be afraid to shop around for someone that makes you comfortable with your own care.
— Dr. G