Before the appointment:
- Don’t discuss old news! Call 1-2 weeks before the appointment to see if you need blood work because there is nothing more frustrating (to me) then discussing 6 months old results.
- Educate yourself from RELIABLE sources. There is precious little time in each appointment so the more time you can spend talking about your actual concerns, and not on education you research yourself, the better. It takes time to develop these information seeking skills but it does increase the value of each doctor’s appointments. Look to information from the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, uptodate for patients, .gov or .edu websites.
- Bring a list of your medications and doses! Yes herbal supplements, protein powders, diet pills and whatever fountain of youth shake you are trying this month needs to be on this list! As an aside, you should keep a small list of medications in your wallet in case of any emergencies. People who need to know, need to know ALL the meds you are on.
- ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE, AND ORGANIZE. Make a list your short and long term goals/concerns…then prioritize the most important 2-3 for today’s 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. Don’t discard your long term goals, in fact I think you should have a long list, but you could say something like “Doc, here is a large list of my goals/concerns (hand them copy), today I want to focus on these 3 because I’ve been feeling….”
During the appointment:
- Write things down! Talking about your IBD can be overwhelming and most people do not retain the information their doctor discusses. It is best to write everything down, seek clarification if needed and digest it/research it later.
- Ask questions: No question is stupid or meaningless, just ask. Make sure like point number 5 to write it down so you dont forget.
After the appointment:
- Get any additional tests scheduled asap. I am notoriously bad at getting things like X rays, CT and bone density scans scheduled and if I don’t do it the same day of the appointment there is >90% chance I will forget. Schedule these tests quickly because they’re so easy to forget.
These are just a few of the things I think make for a better meeting with any doctor. All health care professionals wished they had more time for patients (that’s why we got into the game) but the reality is that the more focused and organized a patient is, the more constructive meetings will be for all parties. Lastly, you need to remember to be very kind to the staff. These folks are of particular importance as they relay phone messages to the doctor, scan/fax your medical records and are highly involved in the logistics of your care. It’s crazy how the nicer you are to people the faster and more pleasant these important tasks seem to get done! It is worth the extra ounce of effort it takes to be nice to people.