Getting the Most Out of Your Trip to the Doctor

In my family practice clinic, I want to help you take care of your health. I do this by listening to you to know what is important to you, and to uncover clues in your lifestyle choices and behavior choices that impact your health. The history I take and the wellness labs I order provide me with critical details I use to help you uncover patterns and conditions you may not be aware of that need to be addressed. Every encounter with you as a patient is an opportunity to improve your health and wellbeing.

When you are prepared for your visit with me, my ability to help you improves dramatically.

Here are some suggestions for how you can get the most out of your visit to the doctor:

Prepare before you come
Take a moment to think about what you want from your appointment. The majority of appointments scheduled in my office are for 15 minutes. I frequently wish I could spend more time with a patient, but the reality of primary care in America is that most visits need to be about this long. If you want more time, ask for it; we can accommodate this in most instances.

Bring important documents or notes with you.
Insurance card – required in our office; any referrals, labs or tests ordered can only be done if we have your correct and current insurance information. If you are paying cash, we will ask for that up front, just like the pharmacy or supermarket.

Current medication and supplement list – these provide clues and information about your current health and ways you have chosen toimprove your health. I review these at most visits.

Personal health summary – record the important information regarding your past health care. One page is sufficient. This is an invaluable resource for you to keep track of and vital communication for every doctor you might see.

Test results – bring lab and x-ray results and notes from other doctors with you. This helps me know what has already been done and what other physicians have previously evaluated.

Health data – Show me a recent list of your blood pressure, blood sugar, weight, or other measurements of your health that are important to you. They are important to me as well!

Expectations – Please share with me what you hope to achieve from your appointment. The main cause of dissatisfaction with a doctor’s visit occurs when there is misunderstanding or miscommunication regarding what the patient wanted to get out of their visit. It is up to both of us to figure this out. I try to ask every patient what they want to address with me; it is most helpful when you come right out and say it. Setting realistic goals and expectations beforehand will help you leave satisfied.

Talk to me!
I’m not suggesting that you might just sit there and let me take over the process. Just be ready to share with me what’s on your heart. Ask me the questions that you are curious about or that are worrying you. Share with me important details that you know about yourself, or that I haven’t asked about. Many times the visit can seem like a conversation between friends. I like it like that! I’m paying attention to the things you say. Feel free to just talk about what brought you in that day.

I believe that a person’s health is impacted by the sum total of their genetic makeup, life history, and current, sometimes long-term, lifestyle choices. I look for clues about unwanted symptoms from many different sources in your life. Are you experiencing negative stress? Have there been any significant changes in your life recently? Are your symptoms brand new, or have they occurred at other times of your life? Was everything okay, until a certain point or event in your life? Don’t be afraid to share with me! I want to listen to you non-judgmentally and with acceptance. I will make recommendations and suggestions and might need to explain the health consequences of some of your choices, but I will make decisions with you, not for you.

Making the plan
By the end of every visit, we make a plan. This is our plan for you. If there is anything you do not understand, ask me. The plan may be as simple as taking a new prescription, or it can be complex, with a few steps or conditions involved. If the plan involves something you can’t, won’t or don’t want to do, tell me. My mom always said, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat!” If I can’t come up with an alternative, I’ll try to help you understand why.

“I don’t know?”
Rarely, but sometimes, I have to honestly say, “I don’t know?” All physicians have limitations in knowledge, experience, and specialty. My personal integrity requires me to tell you if I don’t know something. However, I will try to help you find the answer.

Sometimes I will search for answers for you during the appointment. I might perform a Google search, or search for a special drug or medical databases I subscribe to specifically for this purpose. It is important to me to give you as accurate information as possible.

Other times I will refer you to another health care professional for further care (like a physical therapist, medical specialist, or counselor). When I do so, I will make it clear what question or aspect of your care I am addressing with this referral.

Personalized information
I do not use generic, condition-specific handouts in my clinic. These are frequently so broadly worded that they are useless. However, I will often write on the whiteboard in the room the information specific to you that I want you to have for your future reference. If you have a cell phone, you may take a picture of it. I might also write it down and hand it to you. In my practice, each patient also has access to their own Patient Portal. This allows direct messaging information to be shared between us at times other than your appointment. While this should not be used for emergent or urgent situations, this communication is always saved in your private electronic chart and is available for me to review at the time of your appointment. Many patients will send me information this way prior to their visit so they don’t have to bring notes with them.

Every person has a preferred style of relating to others. This is true of all patients and all physicians. If you find that your style of caring for yourself and your health is not a good match for my style of caring for you, that’s okay. Instead of trying to change yourself, or trying to change me, it is best to do some research to find the doctor that is right for you. You are the most important factor in every visit to the doctor.

By having your purpose, expectations, data, and documents prepared, you can look forward to satisfying and beneficial visits to the doctor every time you go. And I hope you don’t need to go too often!

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