7.10.18 Michelle Chaffee is an ovarian cancer survivor and a member of the MOCA Board of Directors. She is the founder of alska, a caregiving technology solution she created as an extension of her professional patient advocacy service. As a caregiver, healthcare professional and, most recently, a patient herself, she is passionate about educating and empowering individuals with the tools and resources they need.
MOCA has asked Michelle to weigh in on a variety of topics related to caregiving and patient advocacy over the next several months. This month, her column is directed towards the patient – and how to best prepare for a visit with your medical team. Have a question for Michelle? Email us.
The right preparation for visits to your physician can make the visit more productive and effective for both you and your care team. Here are some steps to take to get the most out of your medical appointment.
Have a goal in mind.
What is the purpose of the appointment? Is it a regular physical or are you there to be seen for a new symptom or concern? Going with a purpose will maximize the time you spend with your physician and help him or her optimize your health. If you are there because of new symptoms, prepare in advance and document things such as how often you experience the symptoms (daily, weekly), if you happen to notice any particular triggers to the symptoms (at night, associated with certain foods etc.) or what methods you have tried to relieve the symptoms.
Always be updating your health history.
I mentioned in the previous issue how important family health history can be. Keep your physician updated on any new information you discover regarding potential genetic predispositions to certain conditions. Keep your provider informed of any changes in your health as well, maybe you’ve quit smoking, gained or lost weight or made changes to your diet. These are important things to share with your provider.
Reconcile your medications.
Take a current list of your medications including dose and how often you take it (frequency) so you can make certain they coincide with what your primary provider has on file. You may have visited a specialist who prescribed a new medication that your primary provider isn’t aware of. This step is so important in preventing any adverse medication effects. Also, make certain your primary pharmacy with correct address and telephone number is up to date and on file with your primary provider. Write it down in a notebook or create and print a word document to take to your visit.
Don’t leave the appointment feeling confused.
If there is something you are confused about or don’t understand ask your provider to explain it to you. If a test is ordered and you don’t understand the preparation instructions or even the reason for the test, make certain it is clear to you before you leave. Your provider would much rather answer your questions during the time dedicated to your care than have you leave feeling confused and not follow through with important instructions or try to follow up later when things aren’t fresh in your mind.
Take an advocate with you.
Even if you are completely independent and very capable of managing your health, information exchanged during an appointment can get lost or misunderstood and having another set of eyes and ears there will make all the difference. While you are talking to your provider or asking questions, your trusted advocate can be taking notes and even remind you of questions or concerns you had that you may have forgotten. This person could be your trusted designated health proxy, a professional advocate or even a trusted family or friend.