By Anna Segreto
Have you ever been a player in the following scenario?
You have a 9:30am appointment at the doctor's office. You arrive at 9:25am, sign in, sit down, read back issues of People Magazine, check your watch, note that it is now 9:45am, pick up a copy of Reader's Digest, read, check watch Ð now it's 10:10am. Just as you reach for Mechanics Illustrated, the nurse opens the door to the inner sanctum of examining rooms, and calls your name. A quick glance at your watch shows that it is now 10:30am. The nurse takes your blood pressure, but does not tell you what it is, takes your pulse, but does not tell you what it is, and announces that the doctor will be in shortly. You discover that shortly means anytime between 15 and 45 minutes. Finally, the doctor arrives in the room, asks what ails you as he listens to your heart, asks you to take deep breaths, maybe looks in your throat and ears if your complaint is cold or flu related. Out comes the prescription pad, and the doctor exits.
Hey wait a minute!! What's up with this? Do I have the flu? A cold? Pneumonia? How is my blood pressure? What does this medicine do for me? Does it have side effects?
Or the doctor tells you he needs more tests so he orders an EKG or and echocardiogram, or a stress test or an MRI and writes up a prescription for blood work, and then he exits. Hey, wait a minute! What's up with this? Am I a candidate for a stroke? How long do I have to live? What is my blood pressure? And so on...
Problem is too often we have questions that pop up in our minds after the doctor has left the room.
So, how can you prepare yourself for that visit to the doctor and keep the white coat from flying out the door before you've had a chance to get answers to your questions?
- Write down all the symptoms that brought you to the doctor. If you have a computer, check out www.webmd.com, www.discoveryhealth.com, and www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/encyclopedia.html and look up these symptoms for yourself so that when you see the doctor you already have an idea of what is happening to you.
- Write down a list of all medications, vitamins, and herbs that you are taking.
- Read the lists to your doctor. If he is inattentive, stop reading and ask him to listen. Be bold; it's your health and, besides, you are paying for his time and his attention.
- Let him know that you have done research on these symptoms and after the doctor examines you, ask him to explain the reason for each of your symptoms. Take notes of what the doctor tells you. Ask him to slow down if necessary so that you get everything down. That alone will keep him in the room longer than he might usually stay. But he will also realize that you are concerned enough about your own health to take this extra measure.
- Ask if any of the symptoms are related to drugs or drug interactions. Take notes.
- If he prescribes tests, ask what the tests will or will not reveal. Take notes.
- If he prescribes medication, ask if the medication has any side effects or interactions with the drugs you are presently taking. Take notes.
- If the doctor gives you a diagnosis and or a treatment plan, write it down!
- Ask what reactions you need to be aware of and how long it will take for you to feel better.
- If the doctor schedules a follow up visit, ask what he will do and/or what information he will provide to you in that visit.
- After all is said and done, if you are not feeling better, if the tests, meds, and treatment plan do not seem to work, or if you have any doubts or concerns about the efficacy of any of the doctor's diagnosis and prognosis, then GET A SECOND OPINION!
Tell your doctor that you are getting a second opinion and request a copy of everything that is in your folder to give to the other doctor.
Letter from a patient:
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- Female Patient