Preparing For Your Office Visit

In 1980, I was an ER doc at a local hospital.  I was so amazed at how many non-emergency patients came to the ER that I started asking every patient that I saw one of ten questions as to why they were there.  I took the top 5 reasons, found the solution to each, and opened the Lake Zurich Family Treatment Center. Searching for my patients’ medical needs and finding solutions for them proved to be one of my best things I ever did.  Forty years later, I’m on the other side of the fence looking in.  What I see is not pretty.  The medical world I grew up in is extinct and the new world (and those who inhabit it) are radically different.

Below is a checklist created to enhance your next patient visit.  It was created by Dr. Segal, the physician, and will help you interface with your doctor and his/her staff more effectively.  Now that I’ve transitioned to a patient role, I feel that it’s time to make a list of things I need from my doctor.  What do you need from your doctor?  If you will include your answers in the comment box, I will collate and publish the responses.

The better prepared you are for an office visit, the more you will get out of it.  The following are my top recommendations:

  1. Come prepared with clear objectives.  Define your first and second most important problems by going through the: who, what, when, why and how of your issues and know what you want.  If you are having chest pain or breathing problems, that is number one!
  2. Stay on track.  So many of my patients come in for one specific problem and then do the “Oh, by the way, while I’m here” spewing forth six other problems.  It is hard to do justice handling seven chronic medical problems during the course of an office visit.  Attend to your top two and set up time to do the next two and so on until the list is empty.
  3. Prioritize your list.  It is important to know what the top two are.  Your doc needs to know everything that is on the list.  Sometimes, what you think is the most important problem really isn’t.  Sometimes the doc will re-prioritize your list.  Use an “A” next to a problem to delineate a current/active problem.  Use a “P” to delineate an past/old/resolved problem.
  4. If you are seeing other doctors, tell the nurse who you are seeing and tell her what you are seeing the doctor(s) for.
  5. Bring your medications with you.  “I’m on a blue oval pill, two yellow ones and a green one” is not only worthless, it is dangerous.  Keep the pills in their original bottles.  Make sure you bring all of them, even if someone else prescribed them.
  6. Bring your supplements and vitamins.  They may impact your treatment.
  7. Wear appropriate clothes.  If you are modest, wear your bathing suit under your clothes.  If your knee is killing you, don’t wear tight jeans.
  8. Don’t forget to ask questions.  If you don’t understand what the doctor is telling you, ask for clarification.
  9. Ask for a written set of instructions if they are not provided.
  10. Know which pharmacy you want your prescription sent to.  In the world of electronic medical records, prescriptions are sent over the internet.
  11. Have a written list of your known allergies.
  12. Bring your insurance cards.  Different plans have different rules and panels.  Also, bring your driver’s license and co-pay.  Don’t be angry at the front desk when you are asked to present these at each visit. 
  13. Bring your old labs and x-rays if they were done elsewhere and they are available.

What I need from my doc:

  1.  Listen to and address my objectives.
  2. Re-prioritize my list when necessary to address more threatening problems as rapidly as possible.
  3. Tell me what you think I have and what you need to do about it.
  4. Tell me what I need to do about it.
  5. If you need to do tests, tell me which ones you are ordering and why.  Let me know how I get my results.
  6. If I need meds, which ones do I need and why.  How should I take them?  What are the risks?
  7. When do you want to see me again?
  8. What warning signs, if any, do I need to watch for?    When should I call you or your nurse if any warning signs show up?

We know these simple tips will help make your office visit a more fulfilling experience.

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