3 Ways to Make Your Doctor Visits More Effective
1. Be An Active Participant
Doctors are highly educated, incredibly smart people usually with loads of experience. But they're human and, therefore, not perfect. Be an advocate for yourself by being an active participant in the doctor-patient relationship. I'll explain what I mean with a few personal examples.
Example #1: After changing primary doctors, my new doctor was updating records: vaccinations and whatnot. They asked if I received my tetanus within the last 10 years, since it didn't know up on the state registry. I knew I had but wasn't certain of the specific year and my previous doctor hadn't recorded it on the registry, so I had to get another shot to ensure I was covered. Moral of the story: keep your own records. This will also help when filling out patient history forms.
Example #2: I have a history of ovarian cysts and have had surgery to get them removed. Before changing birth control, I mentioned this to each and every doctor involved in the process. After getting a Mirena IUD inserting, I quickly developed multiple ovarian cysts, one of which hemorrhaged (ouch!). It turns out the hormones in Mirena can perpetuate the development of cysts. Moral of the story: Ask questions until you fully understand. I asked about it, but I never truly understood why an IUD would be okay. Turns out, it wasn't!
Example #3: I was seeing a naturopathic doctor for a variety of symptoms she believed to be interconnected. After developing a rash (a new symptom), I asked if I should see a dermatologist, which she discouraged me from doing since a specialist wouldn't take all my symptoms into account. I didn't, and (months) later discovered we had bed bugs that were causing the bites. I'm confident a dermatologist would have been able to identify the cause sooner. Moral of the story: For anything beyond a simple issue, get a second opinion.
Does your doctor offer online communication?
2. Communication is Key
When choosing a doctor, take communication into account. It may be tempting to choose a doctor closest to you on Google Maps, but instead ask how doctors communicate with patients. Best case scenario, the doctor has an online service that saves you time, money and headaches. An online platform can offer:
- Message center to ask questions without scheduling a visit
- Scheduling services to avoid long waiting times on the phone
- Prescription refill services
- Test results
- A place to store medical history
...and more, but you get the idea. I see my doctor regularly for various health issues, and since changing to a doctor with an online service, my life has been noticeably simpler in that department.
The Big Three
1. Be an active participant
2. Communication is key
3. Know your next steps
Know Your Next Steps
Before you leave, ask what you need to do next. I can't tell you how many times I got home from a doctor appointment only to wonder what is next. Here are some common questions:
- "How many refills does my prescription include?"
- "Do I need a follow-up visit?"
- Explain your understanding of the situation, then ask, "Is that right?"
Another way of thinking about it: if your mom/dad/spouse/friend asked you how your appointment went and what you need to do next, you should have all the answers.
Do Your Part
What this all boils down to is that we as patients need to do our part as well. By being an active participant, ensuring effective communication, and asking questions, we can maximize each visit and interaction with our doctors.