All health care professionals wished they had more time for patients but the unfortunate reality nowadays is that physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants etc are stretched pretty thin. As a patient, the more focused and organized I have been the more productive my office visits are.
- Don’t discuss old news! Call 1-2 weeks before the appointment to see if your physician wants blood work done before the appointment. Nothing is more frustrating to me then going to the doctor and discussing lab results from 6 months ago.
- Educate yourself from reliable sources. There is so little time for each appointment (especially at large centers) so it is imperative that you spend time discussing your actual concerns rather then learning about the disease. There are excellent educational materials on the internet designed specifically for patients and I think being an educated patient is the first and arguably most important step toward becoming an empowered one. For IBD look at the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America educational materials, uptodate (for patients), .gov or .edu websites.
- Bring an ordered list of your medications, doses and how often you take them. Yes herbal supplements, exercise powders, diet pills etc count and you shouldn’t feel like you need to hide this information. This serves as a time saving measure but also likely improves the accuracy of information you’re telling your doctor- keeping these lists written down is better then memory recall.
- ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE, AND ORGANIZE. Make a list your short and long term goals/concerns…then prioritize the most important 2-3 for the upcoming visit. Methodically addressing the concerns over time as the relationship with your doctor progresses is better than rattling off 40 questions and then not remembering any answers provided by the doctor (who probably had to abbreviate answers to save time). Don’t forget or ignore your long term goals, but you could say something like “Doc, here is a list of my goals/concerns (hand them copy), today I want to focus on these 3 because I’ve been feeling….”
- Write things down! Talking about your own health can be overwhelming particularly if things like surgery or medication changes are being discussed. Retaining the information is hard, even for me actually so I like to write things, seek clarification if needed and digest it/research it later.
- Ask questions: No question is stupid or meaningless, just ask. Make sure write it down so you do not forget. Develop questions around your 2-3 goals per appointment.
- Get any additional tests scheduled asap. Personally I am notoriously bad at getting imaging studies done. I have to schedule things like X rays, CT and bone density scans immediately because if I don’t then I am probably going to forget. Schedule these tests quickly because they’re so easy to forget.
- Be kind to the administrative staff and nurses. I think its easy to overlook how hard these folks work at times but they are of particular importance when you need logistical things done (messages to the doctor, scan/fax records, rescheduling etc). It’s a strange phenomenon how the nicer you treat people the faster and more pleasantly important tasks seem to get done! It is worth the extra ounce of effort it takes to be nice to all of the staff and nurses.