Sharing My Journey
I’ve had around 50 medical visits over the last 12 months while dealing with chronic illness. I’d like to share what I’ve learned in the hopes it will help you maximize your (hopefully routine) doctor visits.
I have limited time tonight and don’t want to rush through this, so I’m just going to give you a teaser for now. I’ll post the full post for my Wandering on Saturday.
Without further ado, recommendation #2:
Write Down Talking Points
I write down all of the questions and symptoms I want to ask the doctor about on index cards, one for each appointment. I have a good memory, but there’s something about doctor appointments that makes me forget the most important issues.
I usually just write down a word or phrase that reminds me of what I want to say. It’s meant to be a reminder, not your entire medical history (though I recommend writing that out too). You may choose to divide this into questions and statements.
The goal is to keep you focused on the main answers you want from this appointment. Contrary to popular belief, it is your responsibility to make sure that you come out of a medical visit with the information you need. Can you get a bad doctor? Of course, get another one. But if you try to make the doctor’s job as easy as possible, you’ll be able to work together to accomplish a lot more.
I start this process as much as a couple months before an appointment because I don’t always think of everything I need to address in the week of my appointment, much less on the day of.
Questions to Focus Your Questions
Sort your list in order of priority:
What is bothering me the most?
What do I worry about the most?
What can I find out by calling the nurse line or doctor’s office?
Most insurance companies have a $0 24/7 nurse line you can call to get answers to health questions. The nurses aren’t as knowledgeable as doctors, but it’s great for smaller health questions and to determine the level of care needed.
You can also call doctor’s offices and ask to talk to a nurse or medical assistant (MA). What you’ll get will vary by the doctor, but they are also good for smaller health questions and to make recommendations on non-critical matters. The dermatologist office I go to has a bunch of MAs that are very responsive and have given me good recommendations. They’re no replacement for the doctor, and they’re not going to diagnose anything, but they are familiar with what has helped other patients.