There is so much talk these days about medical care, medical insurance, and medication costs, that no matter who you are or what stage of life and health you may be in, you have to think about those things. If you are ill of course it becomes a huge priority in your life. If you are healthy, you want to keep it that way. If you have a family, you think about your spouse and your kids and what kind of care and expense that all means to keep everyone as healthy as possible.
If you are a young person on your own, you may not worry all that much about your medical care. That happens sometimes because with youth often comes a feeling of invincibility. When you have been active and healthy all of your life, you may even take that fact for granted. That’s not really a good idea.
Healthcare is Complicated
I am a senior citizen (67, ouch, that hurts to say out loud!), and the realities of my life are pretty clear. It’s a fact that as you age, the chances that you will need medical care increase exponentially and doctors with all of the associated care and treatments become your routine. I know from experience how true that really is. I have a primary care doctor, a cardiologist, an eye doctor, and I am a frequent guest at the local lab facility as well as the two area hospitals near my home. UGH! I go to the doctors much more frequently than ever, unlike what was simply an annual exam when I was young or an occasional visit when I wasn’t feeling 100%.
These days my visits are regular, and interestingly are no longer even a “one stop” experience. Often they are tied in with lab tests, blood work, and even a referral to a specialist, making the experience even more complex. So, even if that’s not something you experience yourself right now, it may be on your medical horizon. Because of that, it’s good to prepare for that day, and to think about what you want and need from your doctor when you do visit.
Back in the day when I was a kid, the family doctor used to come to me. If you’re under the age of 35 you probably haven’t a clue about such things, but I swear it’s the truth. Today, it’s all about scheduling your appointment at the doctor’s office and in some cases, that is a huge medical complex or even a hospital or clinic. Getting to talk to your doctor on the phone is almost impossible and it’s far more likely that you will have to talk to his or her nurse. It’s also possible that the nurse will have to call you back after you try to reach him or her. Hopefully, that will be today and not tomorrow. The point I’m making is that it shouldn’t be all about them, but rather it should be all about you!
Getting the Most from Your Doctor Visits
So, here’s my practical list of things you can do when you see your doctor that will help you get the most from your visits and healthcare.
- Before you schedule your appointment, make sure the doctor accepts your insurance and is in network. If your plan requires a referral or pre-authorization, be sure to obtain one in advance. Schedule your appointment for first thing in the morning or right after lunch to minimize the chances that the doctor is behind schedule.
- Prepare in advance a list of questions you may have for your doctor. In between visits, write them down as they occur and bring them with you to your visit.
- If you need someone to make a planned doctor visit with you, don’t be afraid to ask. Whether you ask a friend or a relative to accompany you, having someone there with you that you trust is a big deal. This is especially true if you need moral support, have a hearing issue, or just want a second set of ears to help understand and remember what the doctor says.
- Do some of your own research. If you can, check online, in books at the library, or find out as much as you can about any conditions and illnesses you may have so you get a clear understanding of what your doctor is telling you needs to be done. Just remember that Google can’t replace your doctor.
- Bring a pen and paper with you to take notes during your consultation. When leaving the appointment get all the important information in writing before you leave. Don’t depend on your memory for everything.
- Keep a list of your current medications with you (including dosages) and review them with your doctor. If you are changing medication, be sure to ask the doctor about any side effects or interactions with other medications. If you’re starting a new maintenance medication (one for a chronic condition), find out if there is a generic or lower cost medication available and ask if the doctor has any samples so you can try it out before you spend money on a full month’s prescription.
- When talking to your doctor, always be 100% honest about how you are feeling, any symptoms or side effects, and answering any questions they ask. Since you know your own body best, make sure you communicate any changes in how you feel to your doctors and discuss those feeling and changes with them. This is a key time when you can give the doctor the information he or she needs for a proper diagnosis and any adjustments to medications.
- Don’t wait until your symptoms are severe before seeking medical attention. If your doctor has to send you to the emergency room, it will take more time, money, and aggravation to bring you back to wellness.
- If you are embarrassed by your symptoms, don’t be. Whether it’s depression, incontinence, or a sexual difficulty, no matter what, your doctor has heard it all before and can help.
- Make sure your doctor speaks clearly and slowly and remind him or her of that in case they tend to rattle off instructions in “medicalese” as many are want to do. Ask questions if you don’t understand.
- Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking medication or making lifestyle changes. You’re paying for your doctor’s expertise; make sure you use it.
- Always get a second opinion on a diagnosis that is serious and may require more than just simple treatment or care. Your health is worth an extra co-pay.
- Practice preventative health measures and consult with your doctor as to what you should and can do to keep your health at its best. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” as they say!
- Keep good records of your medical information at home, including information about your history, treatments, and bills. Know the difference between an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) from your insurance and an actual bill, and make sure you are only billed for the allowable amount.
- Remember, if you are not satisfied with your doctor’s style, patience, and manner, and you feel like you are not getting his or her full attention when you have a visit, you should consider changing your doctor and don’t feel guilty if you do.
So often it seems, we spend a lot of time with the office nurses talking to us about our conditions, medications, taking our vitals and such, and little time with our actual doctor who seems to have several patients all booked for the same hour as your appointment. No knock on the nurses, but I want and am entitled to my doctor’s attention and that’s what I expect! You should too.
One other note about the abundance of testing that is requested and done today. I always ask about the necessity of multiple tests because I know that sometimes a doctor can use these tests “just to be sure”. The testing, while it may be useful, should also be absolutely necessary as it can be expensive and time-consuming.
Your health is one of the most important things you have. Make sure you take good care of it and get the healthcare that you deserve at your doctor visits.
Are you seeing more and more of your family doctor these days? Are your medical costs rising? Do you feel your doctor is giving you the attention you deserve?