Ann Blackford

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College: Health Sciences

Making the Most of Your Doctor's Appointment

Published: Mar 12, 2014
By Suzanne J. Fiscella, associate clinical coordinator for the University of Kentucky's College of Health Sciences, Division of Physician Assistant Studies
 
LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 12, 2014) -- Seeing the physician can be overwhelming.  Not only do you not feel well, but you are anxious about missing work or not understanding your diagnosis.  On the other hand, physicians and physician assistants (PAs) want to help you get better with minimal testing and cost. Patients and health care providers can work together to maximize health outcomes with a minimum of stress.   
 

There is an art to seeing the physician or physician assistant. Good communication is a must on both sides. To make the most of your appointments:

 

Know why you are there. What are your symptoms, and when did they start? Have you tried anything to help your symptoms, and did it make them worse or better?  

 

Be familiar with your own medical history. Keep a list of the medications you are taking, including name, dosage, and frequency. Alternately, you can bring all your medicines in a plastic bag to show to the doctor or PA. Even if some of your medications are over the counter, it is still important to mention them to your provider.

 

Make sure you bring with you lab results, x-rays, MRIs or CT scans that you think are relevant to your symptoms. This avoids costly and time-consuming duplicate testing. It can also reduce your wait time, since medical office staff won't need to call pharmacies, hospitals, and other doctor's offices for your records. You have a right to one free copy of your medical records; ask your doctor's office how to obtain them.

 

Write down your questions before your appointment. A physician or PA sees as many as 30 patients on a typical day, but good providers will always make time to answer your questions.

 

The questions you ask will depend on your situation, but some suggestions include:   

 

·         Can you explain my diagnosis in layman's terms?

·         What are my treatment options? What are the benefits of each option? What are the side effects?

·         Will I need a test? What is the test for?  What will the results tell us?

·         What will the medicine you are prescribing do? How do I take it? Are there any side effects?

·         Do I need to change my daily routine?

 

If you don't understand the answers, or are confused, ask your doctor to explain them again.

 

Take notes, or bring someone with you to your appointment to help you understand and remember what you've heard.

 

The best care comes when the provider and the patient work together as a team.  When you are prepared for your appointment, you become your own best advocate.

 

This column appeared in the March 9, 2014, edition of the Lexington Herald-Leader

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