NOTE: The audio above is on the subject of “Hypothyroidism”, a disease that affects 10s of millions of people but that remains undiagnosed in approximately half who suffer with it. With doctor offices being very busy and sometimes overbooked with ill patients, there are things we can do to help us achieve the optimal results from our doctor visits.
1. Write down your symptoms in detail and the questions you wish to ask your doctor and bring the list with you to your office visit. The reason(s) this step is so important is because it assures that you will leave nothing out of the information that is important for your doctor to know about your illness or health concerns. Office visits at non-specialized doctors’ offices are roughly timed so that the doctor is in the examining room with each patient for approximately 8 to 10 minutes. When you have all the information you need to share with him on paper, to take with you, it can be covered more quickly by simply going down the list, rather than having to stop and remember each thing that might be significant. When your doctor sees your list in front of you, he/she will most likely have the courtesy to wait for you to express those things listed.
2. Research your illness, to have some basic knowledge, which will help you communicate better with your doctor. Most doctors are glad to see that a patient has educated himself generally about the illness or health condition he has, because this saves him from having to give the patient a basic overview or to educate him further about his condition at the time of an office visit. Doing a search on the Internet on health conditions, diseases and illnesses is the single most efficient way to learn lots of information from many sources. When doing so however, it is always important to gather the information from reliable, reputable medical sources, such as The Mayo Clinic, The Merck Manual Website, The National Institutes of Health, and the National Library of Medicine. The quality, more mainstream medical sources will assure that a patient who learns information about a medical condition he has will be getting reliable information to help educate him with general information about symptoms, diagnosis and treatment for his condition.
3. Ask for copies of any lab tests you have performed and keep these in a folder of your own, for reference purposes. According to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), patients may request copies of their lab test results to keep in their own records. This can be helpful for many reasons other than for insurance purposes, one reason being that patients sometimes switch doctors for various reasons. While a patient can request that his files from one doctor’s office be transferred to another office, this sometimes does not take place in the timing needed. When a patient has his own backup file to take with him to a new doctor office, it assures the information needed is immediately accessible. Another reason for having the backup records is because some patients wish to see two different doctors for second opinions, etc., and they wish to keep their original doctor as well. This assures both doctors are keeping a record of your files and that they will not question your dedication or devotion to either of them.
4. If you are prescribed a new medication, ask if “samples” are available. Doctor’s offices are given a supply of samples by pharmaceutical companies of many types of medications on a regular basis. Many times, doctors will give patients samples of a medication they wish to put them on a trial of, to see how they will do on it before having them fill a full prescription for it. They also give samples to self-pay patients who do not have insurance coverage and want to help them with the cost of starting a new medication, by giving them an ample supply of samples. The samples are supplied to doctor’s offices in large quantities and many times they have to dispose of significant amounts of these once they have reached their expiration dates, so don’t be shy in asking for them because they usually have plenty to give to their patients! It’s nice, sometimes, as well, to have the samples for a while, if you are ill at the time of needing the medication as it saves you from a trip to fill the prescription at the pharmacy.
5. Take your spouse, friend or relative to your doctor office visit, for support and a second set of ears. It is a known fact that many people get nervous when seeing the doctor. Nervousness can be a distraction, making it more difficult to take in everything the doctor is telling you. Another person you take with you into the examining room helps to keep you calmer and more focused in concentrating on what your doctor needs to inform you about. The second person you have with you can also serve as a second set of ears, to listen to the doctor and remember the information he/she gave you. Some patients have been known to take a microcassette recorder into the examining room with them, to make sure they have a record of everything the doctor informs them about. This is also not a bad idea if you don’t have a spouse, friend or relative available to go with you, to your office visit. These suggestions can help to optimize doctor office visits and to make them as effective for both the doctor and the patient as possible.