Thursday, November 10, 2011

Prepare to Manage Your Medical Appointments

Your medical appointments are very important to your recovery and continued good health.  This article will detail things that you should do to manage your appointments.

1. Prepare for your medical appointment
  • Make a list of questions and prioritize them
  1. You will need to know various things about your condition, your meds and what you should be doing next.  You will have questions as the days between appointments go on and, unless they're written down, may be forgotten. Make a list of questions to be addressed.
  2. When you do meet with your doctor, if you are organized, you’ll be able to get the answers and information that you need. You will also likely get more time with your doctor and the time you do get will be more productive.
  3. Most doctors will appreciate you being organized and considerate of their time.
  4. Doctors also appreciate when you have times and dates of symptoms written down, and do not have to rely on your memory.
  5. Be prepared to answers all of their questions.
  • Prepare a food diary
Your doctor will want to know what you eat. You should keep a detailed diary so that you will know what you ate. I recommend keeping track of calories, sodium, cholesterol, total fluid intake and total fat.

  • Prepare a symptoms diary
You need to be able to answer questions accurately about how you feel, what pains you may have and what your reactions are to various meds. Write down daily everything that you are experiencing.

  • Decide what to take to the appointment
  1. List of questions and concerns.
  2. List of current medications and doses (include over the counter medications).
  3. Food and symptoms journal.
  4. Blank paper for notes.
  5. Spouse/friend/family member (your advocate) to assist.

  • Research and prepare for your appointment
Get on the internet and find information on your condition and your medications. Check for drug interactions that they may have missed.

  1. Gather information from reputable websites. Government health websites and those maintained by medical associations, large nonprofit groups dedicated to a single medical condition, and university medical centers have the most trustworthy, up-to-date medical information.
  2. Make notes and write down any questions.
  3. Don’t try to diagnose your symptoms or self prescribe your remedies.
  4. By being knowledgeable, your doctor’s instructions will be more understandable by you.

  • Prepare your list of meds and take them with you

Your doctor needs to know what you are taking, from all sources, to be able to understand if you’re experiencing any problems with drug interactions or if you’re taking any drugs you really don’t need. You should also have only one pharmacist. National pharmacies now keep good track of their customers’ meds and can advise you, and your doctor, about dangerous interactions.

2. Detail your family history

Tell your doctor everything that they should know about you.
This includes your past health history, your family’s health history, and your own lifestyle history at your next annual check-up. When discussing your own past, include major illnesses, allergies, and drug reactions. Summarize the major illnesses of your first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents), and pay special attention to medical conditions such as diabetes that seem to run in families. Clue your doctor in on your own lifestyle—tell her how much you exercise, what and how you eat, whether you have a pet you enjoy, how stressed you are, whether you smoke tobacco or drink alcohol, any over-the-counter or prescription drugs (from another doctor) that you take regularly. Tell about any recreational drugs that you use or have used in the past.  And be totally honest. Your life may depend on it.

3. Have an advocate

With a major illness, it is difficult to remember and understand everything that your doctor will tell you. It is important that you have someone else with you to help with this information and to ensure that you don’t miss anything important. This person can also help you remember the questions that you wanted to ask the doctor.
  • This advocate can be a family member or a good friend. It should be another person who knows about your health and your concerns and can help you listen carefully, ask the right questions, and even help you make important decisions during a doctor’s appointment. The person you chose should be supportive and understanding of your needs.
  • When experiencing stress, it’s easy to miss details and significant information. If you have a doctor’s appointment coming up where you expect to discuss significantly important test results, treatment plans, prognosis, etc., ask a supportive person in your life to come along. Not only will they be able to support you, but you’ll have an extra pair of ears to take in the information and help you to process your options later.
  • Bring a notebook and write down everything your doctor says …
  • It’s easy to forget key information after you’ve left the doctor’s office, so write down everything your doctor says.
  • Remember: Your doctor will welcome another adult with you.

4. Detail your lifestyle

You probably already know that to avoid another heart attack, you have to manage your lifestyle and likely change the things that caused you to have this one.  These changes will include the trilogy of diet, exercise and stress reduction. You will have to make changes. And, we will talk about these in a later post.

But, for now, we are discussing your doctor’s appointments. The doctor needs to know about your lifestyle to be able to diagnose what caused your heart condition and how to prepare a program of response to treat this one and avoid another one. So, be honest with your doctor.

5. During the appointment  

Ask your questions. Have your questions printed, if possible, with a copy for the doctor. Give him the list. Most doctors can quickly read the questions and give you answers immediately. Remember that they have done this before.
  • Take quick notes and have your advocate do the same. You will forget facts if you don’t write them down now.
  • Ask if you can communicate by email if you are comfortable doing this. Then, you won’t another appointment for the questions that you either forgot or are unclear about.
  • Take down some quick notes on answers to questions, or other comments made by the doctor. Ask for the spelling of tests, medication, or other unfamiliar words. You can go over your notes after the appointment and further flush them out.
  • Ask the doctor if there is any reading material (books, pamphlets, etc.) available that may help answer any questions you might have. Some questions about tests, procedures, and medications may be thoroughly answered through pamphlets, and the doctor can offer some highlights during your appointment.
  • Most doctors are very busy and they will appreciate your being organized and efficient. You will get better service from them.

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