Working with Multiple Healthcare Providers

There are many good reasons to be organized and strategic when many doctors and specialists are taking care of someone. Some of those reasons include the need to share test results, coordinate medication and schedule appointments, tests, surgeries and rehabilitation. Organization also ensures that the appropriate people would be notified of any changes in the person's health.

The doctors and allied health care providers who are part of the medical team for someone with a health condition that affects their brain could include:

  • Primary care provider or family doctor
  • Psychiatrist
  • Neurologist
  • Social worker
  • Physical therapist
  • Speech therapist
  • Occupational therapist
  • Neurosurgeon
  • Neuro-oncologist (for brain tumors)
  • Physiatrist
  • Dietitian or nutritionist
  • Various nurses, radiologists and physician's assistants.

The person will also have to stay current with any other specialists - such as dentists, cardiologists, endocrinologists, dermatologists and gynecologists - who are seen regularly.

Coordinating Care

Although there are many doctors who make it a priority to communicate with their patients' other care providers, it really is up to the patient to stay informed about his or her health care and to keep track of who knows what. Specialists usually will send a fax to a referring doctor to let that doctor know about the patient's progress. More personal communication between providers can be requested if you think it is necessary or if one doctor asks questions that you cannot answer.

You might have to sign a form that gives permission for one health provider to talk to another health provider about your health status.

You should also keep a personal medical record and have it available to show doctors. This record will also help you and your family members remember the details of your medical care history. Include:

  • Medications you are taking, the dose, and when you take them
  • Any supplements, herbal remedies (including herbal teas), vitamins or over-the-counter medications (cough medicine, sinus medicine, allergy medicine, heart burn medicine, pain relievers) that you take
  • Any allergies you have had to medications
  • Doctors you are seeing and their contact information
  • Health insurance information
  • Basic timeline; include dates of doctor visits and tests (a calendar format often works well for this)
  • Contact information for a friend or relative, in case of emergencies
  • Living will or health-care power of attorney

It can be very challenging to work with many specialists and a primary care provider. It helps if you have a good relationship with your family doctor, who really can become the "captain of the ship" when determining what type of health care your loved one needs. If you do not have a doctor you know well, take the time to find a family doctor you feel you can talk to and trust. This person or the clinic where you see this person will become your "medical home" and a good resource as you navigate the complexities of the health-care system.

SOURCES: SmartMoves, Capital District Physicians' Health Plan; Cleveland Clinic

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