Do you recall the time when your family doctor always had time for you and would regularly make house calls? He remembered your name, your kids’ and even their names and ages. Perhaps he even was on some PTO or town committees with you.
Since I’m over 50 now, I’m starting to pay a tad more attention to what my body is telling me. I’ve been a patient of my primary care physician for a good many years. He’s the same age as I am, so we really understand each other.
Your family doctor may have retired. If you’re over 50, perhaps you’re an empty nester, moved away to a warmer climate, changed jobs, have been downsized or have even changed your insurance provider. Now you only have a few to 15 minutes in your doctor’s office and it’s not the close and congenial relationship that you recall from your past experiences.
Here are several things that you can do to build an understanding and expectations between yourself and your medical care provider to aid and get the most out of both you and your doctor’s time. You need to build trust in your doctor; it can make the road to whatever is ailing you quicker. Here’s a few ideas of what you can do on your behalf:
Be a good historian – Keep written records of your blood pressure screenings, sugar levels, high temperatures, times of day when the pain is worse, when your last medication was administered, etc. Your doctor needs to know all of this information prior to deciding on the correct treatment or a change in treatment.
If you have a rather unexpected illness, let your doctor know what you were doing at the time, what food you were eating, where you were and the onset of the symptoms.
Whether your appoint is for a routine physical appointment with problematic symptoms, write down ahead of time any medical questions you may want to discuss with your doctor. The best time to ask your questions is at the beginning of any appointment so the doctor can optimize her time to address your concerns. If you know in advance that you’ll be asking many questions, request a longer appointment when calling in to schedule it.
If you don’t feel comfortable going to the appointment on your own, ask a close family member or trusted friend to help go with you. They can remind you to ask your questions and be able to help you clear up the answers.
Some medical providers will let you email them before an appointment giving them a heads up on your latest problem. This allows your doctor, physician assistant or PRN to review your chart, consider your symptoms, and start developing opinions and a plan of action before you even have your appointment.
Develop a proactive role – educate yourself on your health concerns and work in concert with your doctor on solutions you are comfortable with. Don’t expect or ask your doctor for medication to resolve a new problem immediately. Your doctor will most likely ask you to make healthy lifestyle changes first before trying prescription medication. If a method of treatment isn’t working, then work together to develop with another approach. Perhaps you may want to seek a second opinion.
Building a relationship of trust with your family doctor or specialist takes time and can save you money with health insurance deductibles. Decline to be treated like a number by openly communicating with your doctor and taking an active part in your personal healthcare.
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