Part 2—Preparing to See Your Doctor
By Mike DuBose and Surb Guram, MD
Experts have differing opinions on how often you should see your primary doctor, especially when you are well and symptom-free. We recommend one annual wellness exam with blood analysis, preferably by an internist. Separate visits to the dermatologist, ophthalmologist, and gastroenterologist (aged 45+ for colon cancer screening) are vital. If you experience serious health conditions, build relationships with specialists to address early potential problems.
When calling for appointments, provide a brief summary of the issues. According to a study of 3 million patients, Tuesdays are the busiest appointment times and Mondays experience the greatest cancellations. If you don’t receive preferred reservations, ask to be placed on waiting lists or call every few days to secure an earlier date. Many offices are channeling patients with moderate problems to their nurse practitioners in walk-ins. Experts recommend using the same medical practice for all health issues since your treatment history is documented and health professionals are more likely to notice problem patterns.
Many physicians order blood tests a week before your appointment, including the 40-variable CBC chemistry panel. Consider asking for additional assessments: detailed lipids, which examine in-depth cholesterol levels, density, and sizes; A1c to measure diabetic control; prostate-specific antigen (PSA) for cancer; C-Reactive protein to assess blood inflammation; and Vitamins D and B-12 (low levels can impact health). Confirm that providers which draw blood are within your insurance network. If not, labs will provide heavily discounted cash prices or seek an in-network location with a prescription. Obtain and review blood results before your exam. Most providers allow access to test outcomes on-line or you can acquire them at the doctor’s office.
Complete cumbersome paperwork in advance. Many practices will send forms by mail, e-mail, or you may locate them on their website. Ensure all your physicians share medical records and test results prior to your visit (list your primary physician and specialists on paperwork release authorizations). To ensure documentation arrives on-time, deliver it personally and bring copies to your appointment. Some practices have online portals where you can review and print your information. It’s helpful to maintain an electronic file of important medical procedures, blood results, tests, operations, immunizations, etc.
Compile and prioritize your questions and symptoms in advance, plus develop a medication list, dosages, and refill dates to avoid taking medicines with you. Research and understand your prescriptions with any side effects on websites like www.drugs.com. Referring to these lists during appointments with medical staff decreases the likelihood of omitting important information. Since scientists have proven genetics play major roles in health, advise your physicians about family diseases.
The Bottom Line: Making detailed preparations to visit your medical team is valuable in accurately preventing, diagnosing, and treating health problems. Be a participating medical teammate versus having one-sided, passive relationships where important health problems and sometimes, dangerous clues, may be overlooked! Our final article will outline ways to maximize face-to-face physician visits.
Mike DuBose has been an instructor for USC’s graduate school since 1985, when he began his family of companies, and is the author of The Art of Building a Great Business. Visit his nonprofit website www.mikedubose.com for a free copy of his book and additional published business, travel, and personal articles, as well as health articles written with Surb Guram, MD.
Surb Guram, MD is a board-certified internist, a partner with the SC Internal Medicine Associates in Irmo, SC, and has practiced internal medicine in the Midlands for the past 30 years.