Thursday, May 8, 2014

11 Ways to Make Your Visit to the Doctor Smoother

By Michelle Rodriguez, MD
San Marcos Family Physician

  1. If you are a new patient, ask to fill out your medical history forms ahead of time and get your old records or last set of labs before the visit.
  2. Know which pharmacy you want your medications sent to, including your mail-order company and member number.
  3. Bring your meds with you, including supplements.  Even vitamins are considered medicines.
  4. Be early or at least on time.  When everyone is five-10 minutes late to his or her visit, it is very hard for a doctor to not fall 45-60 minutes behind
  5. Cancel within 24 hours so that your appointment slot can be opened to someone with an acute issue.  When no-shows become frequent, clinics start double-booking, which makes everyone unhappy.
  6. Write down your top three questions.  In our current system, time is limited, often to 15 minutes, so even if your doctor manages to get to all three items, it will not be in the depth that they likely deserved.
  7. Your wellness visit is not the same thing as a med refill visit.  It is meant to catch undiagnosed issues, review screening recommendations, and get vaccines.  It is not the time to fine-tune your diabetes.  If your primary care physician covers both in a single visit, do not be surprised that the visit became a “worried well” or “wellness plus chronic conditions” visit.  It is insurance fraud if the physician does not charge you for the services performed.
  8. If you are coming in about a knee issue, please wears clothes that make it easy to examine the knee.  Otherwise you might get put in paper shorts that flatter no one.
  9. Be patient with the staff.  They often handle 20 calls in an hour while scheduling follow-ups, getting referrals processed, and scanning in records. They are amazing at what they do, but they are often overworked.  Please be understanding if you have to wait while they address an issue for another patient.  One day the frantic person on the other line could be you.
  10. Keep an open mind.  Sometimes you are seeing us because something needs a pill; sometimes it just needs time or nonpharmaceutical treatment.  Your insurance is paying for our expertise and medical opinion when it is an office visit instead of a procedure.  A visit is not a guarantee that we will prescribe medications if we do not feel they are medically necessary.
  11. If your clinic offers an email portal, sign up and check those messages. Many offices do not give their doctors administrative time for phone calls anymore, so we depend on email to communicate with patients faster than if they had to wait for a phone call that requires a quiet room and guarantee of no interruptions for the MD.

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