As we age, visits to the doctor tend to get more frequent. You might be visiting a family practice physician for a periodic exam, an orthopedic surgeon for knee pain or a cardiologist for chest pain. Regardless of the type of doctor you are visiting, there are five things you should take with you to maximize your time.
Keep this information in a safe place, and let your spouse or a loved one know where it is. Electronic medical records are common these days, but don’t rely entirely on these systems to keep track of this information for you.
Medications and the dosages you take
This should also include all the medications you might take on an “as needed” basis. Medications also include patches and injections, not just pills. Your doctor may wish to start a new medication, and he or she needs to know if you are on a medication that may create a hazardous interaction.
This includes known allergies or side effects. Allergies and side effects are not necessarily the same. For example, a certain pain medication might upset your stomach. That would most likely be a side effect, rather than an allergy. Your doctor will take this information into consideration when deciding appropriate treatment options. Listing what symptom or symptoms the medication causes can be helpful to your doctor. Example: “Bactrim causes a skin rash and itchiness.”
These can be easy to forget, especially if you’re distracted by acute symptoms or nervous about the visit.
Include the date, month and year, if possible. Example: “Appendix removal, January 23, 1974.” Certain conditions can be an effect of a surgery.
Family medical history
Include your parents’ and siblings’ medical conditions. An example of a specific condition to note would be a heart condition and the approximate age it started, such as your sister’s heart attack at age 46 or your father’s cardiac stent placement at age 52. Cancer history is also important, especially breast and colon cancer.
Making the effort to take this information with you can make your next visit to the doctor go much more smoothly. It will also allow your doctor to spend the maximum time addressing the reason you visited in the first place.
By Elden R. Rand, MD, MS, FACC, FACP, FASE, FASNC
Invasive and Noninvasive Cardiologist