Even the most energetic and bubbly social butterflies may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of going into the doctor for a check-up. And when we feel ill, all we want to do is lie on the couch with a hot cup of tea and watch a season of our favorite TV show. Like in most aspects of life, preparation is the key to success when it comes to doctor visits.
Consider these tips from Janna Hami, MD, a family medicine specialist with Banner Beyond in Arizona. By following her guidance, you’ll make routine and impromptu visits lower stress and more effective. Feeling better yet?
Tip #1: Don’t wait until you’re sick
Since neither you or your doctor have a crystal ball, regular wellness exams and routine screenings are all the more crucial, explained Dr. Hami. These visits help you stay on top of your health and create a familiarity with your doctor that you’ll be happy to have when you are feeling a little sick. Yet recent data shows that about 25% of American adults don’t have a primary care physician.
Getting a primary care physician is one of the most important things you can do for your health. People who have one tend to live longer than those who don’t. So, if you’re currently without a primary care physician, take the steps to change that. And once you’ve got one, start scheduling routine wellness appointments.
[For help choosing a health care provider, check out: “Here’s How to Choose a Doctor Who’s the Best Match for You”]
Tip #2: Make a list of your concerns — and prioritize them
Dr. Hami said that realistically, a doctor can only review two to three medical issues during a single visit. (Don’t worry, you can always make a return visit to treat other issues on your list). To prioritize your concerns, she suggested thinking about which ones impact your daily life the most. Those should be your top priority.
Keeping medical visits centered on a few concerns will help you remember and follow through on the doctor’s advice. And this way, your follow up visits will also be more focused.
When prioritizing your medical concerns, Dr. Hami also suggested factoring in which medical conditions run in your family. Telling your doctor about this family history will help your doctor provide good preventive care.
Tip 3: Follow up!
This may seem like a no-brainer, but patients often neglect a follow-up visit. A long list of reasons could get between you and your follow-up. You may hope the problem will just go away. Perhaps the doctor’s initial advice didn’t completely fix the issue. Then there’s always the most common one – life just got busy!
Whatever the reason, Dr. Hami recommended one simple tip to ensure that vital follow-up. Schedule your follow-up before you leave that first appointment. When you check out with the receptionist, find a good time you can come back.
Telehealth visits — where you visit a medical professional over video chat — are also a helpful resource when an in-person appointment isn’t doable.
Tip 4: Bring medical records with you
Remember: Your medical records exist to make everyone’s life easier. They contain information that helps you and your doctors see the big picture. If you’ve had the same doctor for a long time, they may already have this information handy. But if you’re setting up care with a new physician, you may want to bring pertinent past records with you.
Dr. Hami said the best way to obtain past medical records is to make sure you’ve signed a medical release of information with all the provider offices you visit. This way, they can fax those records directly to your new provider. She also mentioned signing up for any digital portals that offices, labs and imaging centers provide, so you can print out your records as needed.
Nearly all medical practices today use some form of electronic health records (EHR). And you always have the right to access your health information, wherever it’s stored.
Additionally, sometimes it can be hard to remember all the names and doses of your medications and supplements when the doctor asks you. Consider bringing your bottles with you to the appointment or bring an accurate list of the names and doses.
Tip 5: Be honest
At your appointment, your doctor will probably ask questions about your medical history and lifestyle. If you’re not the type to readily share intimate details, this may feel uncomfortable. But you can take comfort in the fact that doctors meet a lot of people. Their questions don’t come from a place of judgment, but from genuine concern for your health.
“It’s tempting to say what you think the doctor wants to hear,” Dr. Hami explained. “While this is natural, it’s not in your best interest. Doctors can only take the best care of you if they know everything that is going on.”
You can be honest with them about your diet, your substance use, your sexual history, etc. It’s simply the best way to get the best medical treatment.
Sticking with it
“There is no quick fix pill that takes care of everything,” Dr. Hami noted. Treating chronic ailments takes time and patience. The path forward usually requires multiple visits — and oftentimes, routine visits.
Having routine and follow-up visits, Dr. Hami pointed out, are important buffers against relapse and lingering illness. Return visits can really help you get back on the right track.
By having a primary care physician, proactively scheduling visits, prioritizing your concerns, accessing your medical history and being honest with your doctor, you give yourself the best chance to live healthy. Visit bannerhealth.com to schedule an appointment with a provider near you.
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