Your Doctor Visit, Making the Most of the Appointment
Making the Most of Your Doctor Visit
Idaho is ranked 49th in the country for access to healthcare providers per capita. Frequently time is limited when you are at your appointment with your healthcare provider. Therefore it makes sense to make the best of your appointment. Be prepared, focus on specific issues, listen carefully and learn as much as possible.
If it’s your first visit with a new provider, bring a written copy of your health history. This will expedite the intake process. This document should include a list of any previous physicians and providers you have seen in the past or currently. Please provide contact information such as phone and fax numbers if at all possible. This will allow your care team to quickly access any pertinent medical information during or after your visit.
This document should also include a list of your Medical History, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, lung disease, etc. It will also be helpful to list any previous Surgeries, no matter how long ago they occurred. Then list any Allergies to medications and associated reactions such as nausea or itching. Most importantly create an updated list of any and all of your Medications including prescription, over-the-counter and herbal. It’s important to write down the name of each medication, units such as milligrams and how often you are taking them (i.e., Once a day, twice a day, as needed). It is also very helpful to bring in all your medication bottles with you to each visit.
This is the most accurate way to make sure your medication list is as up to date as possible. This is called Medication Reconciliation and is one of the most important steps in providing safe care to all patients.
Next, list any blood relative Family Medical History, which may be helpful. This can include parents, siblings and children and consider any cancers, early heart disease, strokes, psychiatric illness, etc. Next is your Social History. List any smoking or alcohol history and be honest. This can be very helpful in the care planning process. Then list marital status, emergency contacts, people who live in the home with you and any resources you currently have available to you, such as Home Health, In-Home care, church friends and neighbors who can truly help you in case of need.
Consider tracking your immunizations and vaccines such as Pneumonia shot, flu vaccine and tetanus. Also helpful would be a list of any screening studies such as mammograms and colonoscopies. Include dates when these were last done, if possible.
Keep this document updated as changes can occur with each visit to your healthcare providers. Perhaps a family member can create this document for you and save it to your or their computer for easy access and updates. This would make it easier to print two copies for each visit, one for you and one for your provider. It would be especially useful to have a copy for any Urgent Care or Emergency Room visits. Some patients keep a folder in their home for rapid access, which can be handed to Emergency Medical Technicians for ambulance transfers to the hospital.
Whether a new or established provider appointment, consider making a short list of specific issues you want to address days before you head to the clinic. If necessary, write down a bit of history pertaining to those issues, such as type of symptoms, duration of symptoms, any changes in character, which may be related to activity, foods or medications. Be as concise and clear as possible, as this will help your provider make the best decision in your care. Don’t be surprised if your provider limits the number of issues to be addressed at each visit. Prioritize your concerns and do not bring in a “laundry list” which will be overwhelming to your healthcare team.
During the appointment, listen carefully and take notes. Better yet, if at all possible, have a family member join you during the interview process. They can take notes for you, then step out of the room during the exam process if necessary.
When exiting the appointment, ask for a copy of your visit summary. This should be provided for all appointments and should include a list of your current medications as noted by your provider. Look for any discrepancies and clarify as soon as possible. This summary should also have a list of recommendations, instructions and perhaps references to learn more about your health and disease process.
Lastly, make sure you understand when and where your next appointment will be and if there are any laboratory or radiology studies that needs to be completed prior to the next visit.
Unfortunately, you have limited time with your healthcare providers. Be prepared and make the best of the time you have with them. But don’t worry. If you forget something or need to give more information, please call the office or better yet, use your electronic Patient Portal to communicate with your Patient Centered Healthcare Team. Ask your clinic if this is available and if not, ask when it will be. This will require a user name and password. You may consider granting access to family members to help you navigate this relatively new communication tool. In a fast paced healthcare world, use the help any chance you get!
“Best wishes and good health!” Dr. Michael Meza
By Michael Meza, M.D., Heritage Health, Director, Post Acute Care
Dr. Meza graduated medical school from the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, Texas in 1993, followed by Family Practice residency at John Peter Smith Hospital in Forth Worth. After graduation he moved to Orofino, Idaho and enjoyed 16 years practicing full spectrum family medicine, providing care in the clinic, hospital, emergency department and Skilled Nursing Facility. He also provided obstetrical care, including cesarean sections, and performed colonoscopies and EGDs for his patients.
He and his wife Casey moved to Coeur d’Alene in January 2012 and began focusing on care for the elderly. He enjoys seeing residents of “the greatest generation” in the Post Acute Care facilities, Skilled Nursing facilities, and Assisted Living facilities where they live, and building a health care team to support their needs. He works collaboratively with Kootenai Health through the Community Partners group to insure a smooth transition of care for patients discharged from the hospital to these types of facilities.