Learn five vital tips on how to make the most out of your doctor's visit, and learn to avoid the pitfalls that can interfere with a smooth and efficient visit.
I once had an elderly patient of mine very closely approach kidney dialysis. She had recently established her care with me as her new primary care physician. She was a diabetic, hypertensive patient taking over 12 prescription medications.
I sent a referral for her to see a kidney specialist in order to commence possible dialysis. But after having met with her a couple of times, getting to know her, and asking her questions, I realized ... something was not quite right. She was unaware of what medications she was actually taking.
So I insisted that she bring her medication bottles with her to the next visit. Low and behold, she had several repeat bottles of the same medications. And she was astonishingly taking all of them. It was overwhelming her kidneys, taking the maximum limit of several drugs. This caused her kidneys to malfunction and begin to shut down. She was nearly set for dialysis! If I hadn't asked her to bring her bottles to review individually, this patient may have endured some unnecessary medical suffering.
Therefore, learning how to take charge of your health as a patient is truly a must. And making your doctors visits as smooth and efficient as possible will help return that sense of self-control and satisfaction.
The following five tips alone will help keep you from some very common medical pitfalls.
5 Things to Never Do at the Doctor's Office
1.) Forget to Confirm Your Appointment
Let’s start at the beginning. Make sure to confirm your appointment day and time at least 48 hours in advance. Even though my staff is very well-trained and experienced, mistakes and misunderstandings happen. And for whatever reason, every once in a while, I still see a patient who tells me that they thought their appointment was at a different time slot. If the doctor is booked, this may mean that the patient needs to reschedule. And some doctor’s (and dentists, eye doctors, acupuncturists, hair stylists, masseuse, etc.) offices even charge a fee for missing an appointment. Therefore, in order to avoid any last minute surprises, if the doctor’s office has not called you to confirm your appointment first, please make sure to call them yourself.
2.) Forget to Bring Your Medication Bottles
For those of you who can recite the names and doses of your meds in your sleep, this may not be an issue. But for the rest of us, especially those taking multiple medications, even pronouncing something like lisinopril/hydrochlorothiazide (a very commonly prescribed generic blood pressure medication) is a lot to ask. And if you are on multiple medications, remembering that list becomes even more daunting.
I know what you are thinking—"Doesn’t my doctor have an electronic version of my medications in my chart?"
The answer is yes. However, doctors know to never rely on a computer rather than their live patients. Even if the patient is “supposed to be” on a medication on their list, it doesn’t mean they are actually taking it. So physically viewing the bottles is irreplaceable information. In addition, if I need to tweak a blood pressure medication, for instance, and the patient is on multiple ones, having physical access to their bottles will allow me to not only point them out individually, but also to write on the bottle when I ask them to make any changes.
Bringing your bottles to your visits will help eliminate errors and misunderstandings.
3.) Forget to Turn Your Cell Phone Off
As a physician, I do carry my cell phone in my white coat. But I keep it on vibrate and am proud to say that I have never to this date answered it while in an exam room, or even looked to merely see who is calling. Why? Because I strongly believe in common courtesy, most especially in a professional setting such as the doctor’s office.
Also, it interrupts the visit and that is one of my biggest pet peeves as a doctor. I lose my train of thought and it takes time to regroup. Along the same lines, I have asked my staff to never interrupt me while I am with a patient, unless it’s absolutely dire. The only time I now get interrupted is during a true patient emergency, which is infrequent.
And I simply ask the same of my patients. Please do not forget to turn your cell phones off—this is one of the most disrespectful things I can do to a patient, and I would expect the same courtesy in return.