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Getting the most out of your doctor visits

Sometimes patients aren't sure what they should and should not do with a direct pay doctor.  We want to make sure you get the most out of every visit with us.  Here are some helpful tips to help you make the most out of your independent primary doctor.

Take all your medications and supplements with you.

Take all your medications and supplements with you to every doctor’s visit (not just a list) and know why you are taking each medication or supplement – If you have ever been to the doctor, you know that you will get asked what medicines are you taking? How often do you take them? What’s the dose? Are you taking any supplements? Who prescribed that for you? Make it easy for your doctor by bringing the bottles with you to every single visit.

A simple example of this is when a patient comes in for allergy symptoms. Your doctor will always ask what have you tried? If you say “just an over the counter allergy pill,” you have put yourself at a disadvantage as there are many over the counter medicines labeled as allergy medicines (benadryl, cetirizine, fexofenadine, loratadine, etc…Each medication has slightly unique properties: some work better than others and some cause more sleepiness than others.

Bring a list of all of your doctors

Bring a list of all of your doctors (current and those you have seen in the past few years).  Doctors who are thorough are going to want to communicate with your team of doctors or will often need to request information from previous doctors. Don’t get yourself in the position where you will have to get back to your doctor with this type of simple information as every little step will delay your care.

Bring a paper copy of recent lab work and imaging reports.

Bring a paper copy of recent lab work and imaging reports - If you have had recent lab work or imaging, bring an extra paper copy of the reports with you. That way, your doctor can review them with you. They also have the physical copy to scan into their electronic medical system. Results in a portal on your phone take time to access (remember time is precious with your doctor…don’t spend it trying to pull up results on your phone). Remember that your doctor’s team will want a copy for their records so it’s best to be able to physically give them a copy. 

Bring pictures and video.

Bring pictures and video – if you have something that can be seen with your eyes, take pictures or even a video. It’s amazing how visible concerns can disappear on the day of your doctor’s appointment. Remember things that you see are things that can be photographed. Good examples are bruising, rashes, swelling, injuries, strange movements.  

Check on results for your labs and studies

Get results for your labs and studies – If you have not received results for a test that has been done, don’t assume that the result is normal. No news is not always good news. No news may mean that your doctor never got a result. While there are systems in place for your doctor to see your results, don’t assume that it has happened unless you have been notified of those results. Give a reasonable amount of time (7 business days is appropriate for non-urgent studies) and then follow-up with a polite nudge. 

Arrive and stay positive, curious and open-minded.

Know that most doctors go into medicine for one simple reason, and that is to help people. Most doctors are not trying to hurt or take advantage of patients. They have dedicated a minimum of 11 years of higher education, countless exams and rigorous training in order to help others. Listen with an open mind and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you have had a bad experience at one doctor’s office, don’t hold it against the next doctor.  Remember that articles and videos on the internet or conversations with friends and family cannot replace the knowledge and experience of a physician. If you have concerns about your treatment plan, express your concerns in a calm manner. For example if you feel that your treatment plan is too aggressive, ask if it reasonable to wait and see if symptoms improve? If you feel like your treatment plan is not aggressive enough, ask if there is an option for additional testing or treatment. If you are afraid of something specific, please tell your physician. Remember that it is okay to get a second opinion. If you have two doctors expressing similar opinions, you usually have your answer. It is rare to need a third opinion, but it’s okay if you feel like you need it.

Answer questions honestly.

Answer questions honestly – there is very specific information that helps your physician diagnose and treat your problem. There is a reason why each question is asked. Depending on the answer, it may lead down a different path of diagnosis and treatment. If you use a recreational drug, please tell us. If you have a family history of an illness that you are concerned about, please tell us. If you drink 2 pots of coffee per day, please tell us. Your doctor’s office should be a judgement free zone. 

Answer questions concisely.

Answer questions concisely – Again, remember that time with your doctor is precious. If possible, try to share information in a brief manner. Try not to ramble or switch from one topic to another without answering the question. Think to yourself, what brought me into the office today? What am I worried about? What do I want to accomplish at my visit today? 

Follow-up when you are asked to follow-up.

Follow-up when you are asked to follow-up – There is a reason that physicians ask patients to follow-up in a certain amount of time. They are following up on something specific. They may want to be sure a medication is doing what it is supposed to do without causing any side effects. They may want to discuss lab or imaging results with you. They may need to consider changing your treatment plan. They may need to order some labs or studies to be sure the treatment plan is working they may want to be sure that disease process is not progressing.

Make an appointment

Make an appointment – If you want to have a meaningful discussion with your doctor, schedule an appointment. When you schedule an appointment, there is dedicated time blocked in your doctor’s schedule specifically for you. If you do not have an appointment, you will often rushed, un-satisfied and frustrated as you may be trying to communicate through office staff.

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