As a doctor of over 25+ years, treating thousands of patients, I’m always amazed when a new patient comes-in without their intake forms filled-out or a returning patient comes in unprepared to go over their case.
Every new patient is given the “new patient intake forms packet” before their initial visit and informed that it’s vital for them to fill-out everything, thoroughly, before their visit with me. This saves more than just time, which is also very important. I need all the data I can get my hands on in order to give the best recommendation I can. I need to build a picture of the patient and then place myself in their shows – what would I do if I had exactly what they had and how would I treat myself.
It’s just as important that returning patients be prepared. I only have so much time for an office visit. The more prepared the patient is, the more time I have to actually treat them. Without being properly prepared, I can spend half, or more, of the visit just getting the updates, from the time between the last visit and now. If they had: their health diary; food log; questions to be asked; new supplement or medication list, all ready for me, we can immediately begin our visit. Chit-chatting is not the visit and it doesn’t do anything to help get the patient closer to their health goal.
Here is what every patient should bring with them on an initial office appointment:
“A prepared patient is one that I know wants help, is respectful of our time together, and is usually more willing to do what it takes to follow recommendations.”
1. All initial intake forms (questionnaires, legal, food-log…) filled-out, completely, and legibly.
2. All lab tests, diagnostic tests, scans, x-rays… should be copied and brought in. Minimally, form the last 6 months. 1-2 years of tests would be the best. If no tests have been performed before, they will most likely be done between the initial examination and the second visit. If you are not testing, you are only guessing. If your doctor doesn’t run tests during or after your first visit – their just guessing. Ask for tests to confirm or rule-out the diagnosis.
3. A ‘Health Diary’ should be filled-out. Knowing your medical history is very important. When did your condition first start? How has it progressed? What have you done that’s helped or not helped? These are just some of the things that will help me to make a more informed recommendation. Try to be as succinct and to the point as possible.
4. Having a ‘Goals List’ is incredibly important. This should be done for each visit and for the overall treatment program. Without goals there is nothing to work toward.
5. Questions. You may not have many coming into your first visit but if you do, have them written and ready to ask. Try to be as succinct and to the point as possible. Make sure you get all your questions answered to your satisfaction and don’t give-up until you do. Do not be intimidated. You are hiring the doctor as a coach. The doctor is your hire and you should get what you paying for. If the doctor does not fit with your belief system or whatever it may be that doesn’t seem to be right – fire them and find a new one. Personal referrals from friends and loved ones are the best.
Here is what every patient should bring with them on a follow-up office appointments:
1. A clear ‘goal’ for each visit is important. Going into every visit with your doctor with a clear goal will help to eliminate any frustration that may come-up from the two of you not being on the same page. Doctors see a lot of patients and may not remember everything, even with good chart notes, from the last visit. A ‘goal’ for the visit could be to: reduce the amount of pills from last visit, work on a new symptom/condition, go over new test results…
2. Keeping a ‘health diary’ is extremely helpful. Here is a scale that can be used to help both you and your doctor more clearly see how your condition/symptoms are improving or worsening.
I would want to see it this way: make a list of symptoms or concerns with a number 1, 2 or 3 next to them. 1 = symptom is mild and/or it only comes on 1-2x/month. 2 = symptom is moderate (pain scale 5-7) and/or it only comes on 1-2x/week. 3 = severe (pain scale 8-10) and/or the symptom is constant. You can copy this scale and place it at the top of you symptom list. Knowing if the pain/symptom is constant or intermittent as well as severity is just as important as the symptom itself.
3. Questions. See above
A patient needs to take just as much responsibility for their health care as the doctor who is being paid to help them. As a doctor I can give advice but it’s up to the patient to follow it. I can only help to the degree that the patient is willing to be helped. Assisting the doctor with the visit by bringing updates, goals and questions is one of the best ways to help the doctor, help you.
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