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Getting the Best Value From Your Doctor’s Visit

April 10, 2014
Tom Canty, Vice President and General Manager, Empire BlueCross BlueShield
Government, Labor and Special Accounts

Every day in the United States, hundreds of thousands of people go to the doctor’s office.  More than 80% of adults and 90% of kids see at least one healthcare professional every year – so it’s likely you’ll be making a visit in the not too distant future.  Whether your appointment is routine or a follow-up from an illness or surgery, a few simple steps can help you and your family members get the most out of their doctor visit to maintain and achieve good health.

You and your doctor are partners.  Outcomes are better when patients and physicians work together toward a common goal:   your good health.   It’s important to talk about how you’re feeling and what health issues you may be having.  You should also ask questions, after all, you know what you’re experiencing health wise better than anyone else. The more information doctors have about their patients, the better they are able to direct a course of treatment. 

Prepare ahead of time for your visit.  Write down your questions in advance.  Make sure you include a list of medications and medical tests you might have had since your last visit.  If you have traveled out of the country, let your provider know that too.   Older patients or those with multiple conditions might want to have someone go with them to the appointment since a second set of eyes and ears can be helpful.   

Put together your own ‘health summary.” This could include: primary and secondary emergency contacts, Health care Proxy (if you have one), active medical conditions, surgeries with dates if possible, active medication list (including over-the-counter supplements and vitamins), allergies and other medication side effects, and family history.  Share it with your doctor and let someone close to you know where to find it, should you face an emergency situation.

Play an active role in your own health. In addition to keeping your information current and really talking to your doctor, it’s important that you follow the treatment recommendations you are given.  While physicians do the screenings and prescribe treatments, the patient is responsible for prevention.  Take your medication as directed and complete the course of those medications unless otherwise instructed.  Make the recommended lifestyle modifications and always call the office if your health changes.

Some Do’s…

–        Arrive on time or early in case you need to update your paperwork

–        Call ahead if you will be late- sometimes offices can adjust schedules

–        Present your questions at the start of your appointment

–        Do online research of health sites, but ask your provider which sites he/she would recommend

And Don’ts…

–        Don’t withhold questions

–        Don’t be embarrassed by asking questions

–        Don’t “no show” for your appointment as that slot could be needed by another patient

Your medical appointment is important to you and your doctor, so be sure the time you spend together is productive and leads to better health.

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