Once upon a time, a visit to the doctor meant a comfortable conversation with the person who cared for all your aches and pains and doled out lollipops to your children. Simple visits were kept simple while more intricate routines warranted a house call. Today, a trip to the doctor is much more complicated, even if it’s to address a mere cold.
Insurance plans, specializations, labs and x-rays, and a general lack of one-on-one time with the doctor heighten the stress of medical appointments. This has led to decreased satisfaction for both parties. Many patients have a growing disinterest in the health care system—a system with increasing costs and an assembly line attitude.
On the following pages, get 12 tips for making the most of your doctor's appointments.
If you’re going to see the doctor for a major concern (symptoms that have persisted, or not been resolved with treatment), let the scheduler know. Otherwise, you might be put into a 5 minute slot that won’t permit enough time for the complex issue.
2: Bring Your Insurance Card
The office should always have an updated copy of your current insurance card.
3: Be on Time
If this is a new doctor for you, make sure you have directions and enough time to get to the office. Try to arrive 30 minutes prior to your appointment to fill out paperwork. Many offices will reschedule a patient if they are 15 minutes late.
4: Confirm Faxes
If you’re having records faxed from one doctor to another, confirm with the receiving office the fax arrived. Whether human or machine, errors happen. Avoid having to reschedule by following-up.
5: Bring Test Results
If you have record of any labs or tests that might offer insight, bring them along.
6: Write Down Questions
Write down your questions and goals. This helps you stay on target. You can squeeze a lot more information out of a 10 minute visit by knowing what you want to cover.
7: Stay on Target
If you’ve been suffering for some time, you’ll have a lot to tell the doctor. Emotions might arise while discussing your symptoms. It’s OK. Just remember, you still have to convey your medical history in an efficient manner. If you spend a lot of time revisiting a toe injury from high school, but are there because of heart disease, the doctor could run out of time.
8: Ask About Treatments
If it’s unclear, always ask about the side effects, risks and benefits of a treatment. If you have any concerns about a potential therapy, share this with the doctor. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t understand a treatment, or its risks.
9: Get Copies of Results
Ask for copies of your lab results at your visit. This way, you can keep an accurate health history.
10: Ask About Insurance Coverage
If you’re not sure if a given treatment is covered by your insurance, call and find out. You may not always get a definite answer, but the insurer may be able to direct you to lab or x-ray facilities that are contracted with your program or carrier. This could help save you money and stress.
11: Check with Your Insurance
Check with your insurance carrier to make sure your specialist is in the network. If not, check with the insurer and doctor’s office to understand costs associated with a provider out of the network.
12: Research the Doctor
Individuals may choose a doctor because of location, insurance and even sense of humor. It’s important to find a doctor with which you feel comfortable. This person is a teammate in your health. Maintaining your body requires similar planning to that of finances. A financial advisor is looking out for your interests now, and for years down the road. Find a doctor who can coach you to good health for a lifetime.