You said what?

Posted on Sep 25th 2012 by Dr. Carm

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Getting the most out of any personal interaction, whether it be shopping for a car, groceries, new shoes (YEAH!), or a visit to the doctor’s office depends on several important steps.
Step 1: Know what you want out of your visit.

Why do people spend more time and preparation getting ready for a visit to the car dealership than they do for their yearly physical exam? In reality, cutting corners on the preparation for a doctor’s visit will do more to disrupt and endanger your life than buying a “lemon” of a car. Here are my must-do steps for getting the most out of your patient-doctor interaction (please remember these are not all-inclusive). Step 1: Know what you want out of your visit. Do you have a health concern or is this just a routine checkup? Do you need refills on your prescriptions? Did you recently have a test and you need to review the results with your doctor? Make a list. It doesn’t mean you’re being OCD; it’s a great habit to get into. Write down what you need from your doctor, what questions you have and you won’t forget. How many times do we walk out of a meeting or hang up the phone and within five minutes we remember what we really wanted to ask? I do it all the time. Write down what you want and you’ll increase your chances of getting it. Step 2: Do your homework.

You would never walk into a local car dealership and say, “Hey, that’s a nice one. What colors does it come in?” The average car buyer spends hours test driving and researching on the internet, as well as talking to neighbors and friends about cars they have purchased.

You need to educate yourself. Do you know what should be included in a good routine checkup? If not, look it up. WebMD is a great resource for medical information written in layman’s terms.
Good docs are humble. They know that they don’t know everything. They are happy to keep learning.

Do you have a health issue that does not seem to be improving? Are you having issues with side-effects of your medications? Look it up. Be armed with information. If you are on more than three medications, bring a list to your doctor with the name, strength and dosage information. Offer him/her a copy to keep in your medical record. Many people are afraid that they may offend their physician if they ask too many questions or bring in outside information. Nothing could be further from that truth. Good docs are humble. They know that they don’t know everything. They are happy to keep learning. It is a big red flag if your doctor has a bad reaction to your asking questions or supplying him or her with information. If he/she does that, find a new doctor immediately.
Without good communication, mistakes happen and lives are in danger

This is a continuation of Step 2. Do you feel comfortable talking about anything to your physician? Does he/she listen to you or dismiss your concerns? If this is not a good marriage, file for divorce. This is your health. Without good communication, mistakes happen and lives are in danger.  Florida Blue members are empowered to rate and review physicians and hospitals using the Zagat rating tool on their member account. Check to see how your current - or new - physician ranked by logging into the online provider directory. Let other members' experience be your guide! Step 4: Do not allow yourself to be rushed.        If your doc did not schedule enough time to discuss all your issues or is called out to an emergency, reschedule a follow-up visit for another time. Some patients have a laundry list of   issues and 15 minutes is just not going to be enough time to address them all appropriately. Step 5: Have your “to-do’s”. Make sure when the visit is over you clearly understand: •    When is my next appointment? •    Did I get the prescription refills I needed? •    Did I ask about side-effects for any new meds I’ve been placed on? •    Did my doc order a test? Do I know where to get it? When to get it? And did he/she give me a script for it? •    Do I need to see a specialist? •    What do I need to do? (exercise, stop smoking, etc.) Remember that bringing a pad of paper and a pen to your visit is your best defense against a faulty memory. Members can also go digital and create their own online directory of their physicians by logging into their Florida Blue member account. Of course, no relationship is perfect, but if you were happy with your visit and appreciate what your physician has done for you, by all means, tell him/her “thank you”. Maybe take a moment or two to rate him or her and write your own review! Don’t assume that because I am a physician, my doctor visits are much different from yours. I bring in questions, lists of meds and articles off of the internet. Oh, I also usually bring a little gift once or twice a year because anyone who can deal with me deserves a treat!

Filed under: Mind/Body/Soul  


Dr. Carm

Dr. Carmella Sebastian is Florida Blue’s Vice President of Medical Affairs. In this role, she is responsible for leading the development of an integrated clinical strategy to improve members’ health and well-being while creating and implementing a market-facing strategy to best represent the company’s clinical interests and mission. She, her husband Louis and two daughters call Tampa home. Find her on Twitter @Dr_Carm or visit her website, http://www.drcarm.com/.

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