Doctors spend an average of eight to 15 minutes per appointment with their patients. This usually allows for at least two brief updates about symptoms and a short discussion during the visit. But by planning ahead for what to bring to the appointment and what to ask, patients can have a strong influence on the level of feedback and care they receive.
Taking initiative in your health can be achieved by a simple three-step plan. Many patients may feel pressured not to ask questions of their doctor, but it’s important that they feel empowered to take control of their health.
Step 1: Write It Down
Keep a log of your symptoms, supplements, new triggers and the dates they started. It’s also important to prioritize. Make a list of questions or issues you’d like to discuss with your doctor, and then prioritize them. Finally, pack your medicine. Take all prescriptions, supplements and over-the-counter medications with you to show your doctor.
Step 2: Arm Yourself With Information
It’s important to know what your insurance plan does and does not cover and where you can receive services such as lab work, x-rays, mammograms, etc. Be aware of the guidelines that are recommended by your health plan on when and how often certain procedures can be performed.
Before you go to your appointment, make sure you have your current health insurance information. Also, bring your old medical records. This includes information such as medical and family history, immunizations, preventive testing, medications (all bottles, supplements, vitamins, over-the-counter medications), x-rays when appropriate and journals of your symptoms or data. If you’ve done your own research on a medical problem you’re having, bring your references with you so your physician can review it and provide more insigh
Step 3: Know What Comes Next
After your initial visit, make sure to ask your doctor about future appointments and length of treatment until results. Ask how long it should take for treatment to go into effect. This way, you’ll be aware of when you may start experiencing changes or improvements. Be sure to find out what symptoms are red flags. Ask if there are any changes or symptoms that you need to notify your doctor about during the treatment.
If tests were performed or scheduled, find out how long you need to wait until you can contact the doctor’s office for results. Finally, ask for copies of your test results. File these records away so you can keep track of your medical history.
Beth Peters is director of business development with GlobalHealth, Inc., an Oklahoma-based health maintenance organization with offices in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, providing affordable health care coverage for federal, state and local government employees, education employees and private companies.