Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tip of the week: What is your role in health care?

Health care reform-- let's hope it happens.. Until then, and even if it occurs, you are the key to the entire health care system. It all starts with what you do when you visit your doctor.

We've all been there... Sitting in the waiting room of our physician’s office looking at magazines from last year. We get frustrated, we get angry, but we continue to flip through the old magazines. Why not do something healthy and productive with that time and something that will help you get the most out of the time you spend with your physician?

First things first, your physician is not purposely delaying you, and believe me, he or she would much rather run on time, than run late. Primary care physicians in particular are being asked to see more patients in shorter amounts of time. Also, more and more primary care physicians are seeing patients with complicated chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. That being said, ask yourself what are you doing during that time? If you are feeling really sick, you may be just trying to hang in there. But what if you're feeling reasonably well? You have a great opportunity to maximize the time you are going to have with your physician.  

First, have realistic expectations. The reality is, in most cases, you will have 15 minutes or less time with your physician. Don't expect more. With only 15 minutes, it is very possible that some of your problems and concerns may not be addressed.  Getting frustrated is understandable, but not productive.

One of the most important actions that you can and must take is to describe your symptoms to your doctor. Remember, only you know what you are feeling, the more accurately and succinctly you can describe your symptoms, the more productive the visit will be. So grab a sheet of paper in the waiting room and write down the following:

For each symptom you may be having- be it pain, or fatigue, or nausea- write down:

·        when they started

·         how long they have lasted

·         if there has been any change in symptoms

·        what makes them better or worse

Next, realize that with a short time in the office you may not have time to talk about everything that is bothering you. So it’s time to prioritize.

Write down every question you want to ask and write down which symptom is causing you the most distress.  Put everything in order of importance.

If you can do these two things in the time you are sitting in the waiting room, you will be able to hit the ground running once you are able to see your physician.

In addition to what to do during your time in the waiting room, always bring a list of medications you are taking. Finally, leave with a plan. Leaving with a plan does not necessarily mean you will leave with a treatment. Leaving with a plan means you will know what is to happen when you leave the office. That may mean waiting things out, that might mean more tests, or medication of some sort.

A visit to your physician is an active event. The more you can work with your physician as a team, the better you are going to do.  If you have realistic expectations, come prepared and leave with a plan, you will find that the visit feels a lot more useful and helpful.

No comments: