An office visit with your personal physician might be considered the basic unit of health care. All other care, including testing, hospitalization or subsequent appointments with medical specialists, stems from that visit.
Knowing what to do before your visit with the doctor, and during your time in the exam room, can help you make the most of every appointment and ensure you get the best care.
Come prepared. According to Paul Karazija, M.D., Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield chief medical officer, good preparation before the appointment is just as important as anything that happens during the appointment. Make a list of your current medications, and write out any questions in advance. That way, you’ll be sure to remember those concerns during your visit.
Preparation may also include completing any lab work prior to the appointment, fasting before the appointment or wearing exercise-appropriate clothing.
Arrive early. Arriving 15 minutes early, and completing any paperwork before your appointment time, can help ensure you are ready for the doctor when the doctor is ready for you.
Karazija cautions that patients also need to be understanding when their doctor may be running late. “No one likes to be kept waiting,” he says. “Keep in mind, however, that the person in the exam room before you may have been experiencing more significant health issues, or the doctor may have had an urgent telephone call from the hospital.
While you’re in the exam room… Don’t be afraid to take notes during your visit, or ask questions regarding your care. “Like they say in grade school, the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask,” Karazija says. It’s equally important to answer questions honestly, which helps your doctor provide the best care.
Also, keep social conversations to a minimum, or save them for the end of the appointment, to make sure your health concerns get addressed first.
Let the physician do their job. Karazija notes that many patients come to their visit asking for a specific medication, treatment or diagnostic test. “It’s important that we don’t try to dictate our own care in the doctor’s office,” he says. “Just because the doctor doesn’t write you a prescription, or send you across the hall for a CT scan, doesn’t mean you’re not receiving high quality care.
After the appointment. Time in the exam room is limited, so be sure to follow up with the doctor or an assistant if you have additional questions. You should also alert your physician if there are any changes in either your condition or general health, so appropriate adjustments may be made.
“It’s your time, and your health, so make the most of it,” Karazija says.
For more information on health and health insurance, call the Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield Personal Health Assistant 24/7 at 1-800-724-9122.