Maximize Your Time With Your Doctor
Thursday, January 5 2012 2:22 AM
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. Write this information down and keep it in a safe place, and let your spouse or a loved one know where you keep it. Electronic medical records are common these days, but don’t rely entirely on these systems to keep track of this information for you.
- The first, and probably the most important, thing to bring with you is a list of all the medications you take along with the dosages you take. This should also include all the medications you might take from time to time 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.
- Bring a list of medication sensitivities. This includes any known allergies or side effects that you have or have experienced. 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 upon appropriate treatment options. Listing what symptom or symptoms the medication causes can be very helpful to your doctor. Example: “Bactrim causes a skin rash and itchiness.”
- Bring a list of your medical conditions. When a nurse asks you about your medical conditions, it can be easy to forget some of them at that time, especially if you’re distracted by acute symptoms or nervous about the visit.
- Bring a list of surgeries you’ve had done. Include the date, month and year, if possible. Example: “Appendix removal, January 23, 1974.” It’s important for your doctor to know this history because certain conditions can be an effect of a surgery.
- Bring your 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, since your doctor’s decision of whether or not to screen for these conditions may depend on the age that they appeared within the individuals in your family.
Taking the extra effort to bring 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 he or she can with you addressing the reason you visited in the first place.
By Elden R. Rand, MD, MS, FACC, FACP, FASE, FASNC
Invasive and Noninvasive Cardiologist
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