Primary Care Providers are generally allotted only 15-20 minutes per office visit. During that short window of time, your doctor must review and update your electronic medical record, discuss your current medical concerns, complete a thorough physical exam, order labs, generate an accurate medical diagnosis, send your prescriptions to the pharmacy, and if needed, coordinate a referral to a specialist. Now add in a complicated diagnosis like cancer or complicated symptoms like back or chest pain, and it is easy to understand how a misdiagnosis or miscommunication could occur.

This is where you, the patient, can significantly impact the outcome of your next medical office visit. By being a proactive, prepared, and engaged patient, you will allow your doctor to provide the best and most efficient care possible. Here are some tips and tools that you can use during your next primary care or specialist office visit.

Be Prepared

Arrive at your doctor’s office with a distinct set of goals that you would like to accomplish during the visit. Prepare for your visit by compiling an updated list of your medications, including dose, frequency, and the reason why you are taking them. If all else fails or concerns arise, bring in your actual medications bottles.

Know Your Medical History

Do not assume that your provider has spent hours reviewing your medical records, or has a thorough knowledge of your medical history. More than likely, he or she just did a quick scan of your medical record before they entered your room. So, be prepared to let them know that you had your screening mammogram 2 months ago or that the cardiologist that you see has changed your medications. Having a printout of any test results or an updated medication list will make your provider’s day!

Write It Down

We have all been there. Your doctor walks in the room, asks you five questions, and before you know it, you have forgotten everything that you wanted to ask your doctor. For this reason, it is extremely important that you write down all your medical questions ahead of time. What Should Patients Do to Help Make Care Safe is an excellent tool from the National Patient Safety Foundation that will guide you through the process.

Communication is Key

Make sure that you have a thorough understanding of your diagnosis and treatment plan before you leave the exam room. Do not be afraid to ask too many questions and ask for educational resources that you can review when you get home. Spend a few extra minutes in the waiting room after your visit to jot down your last thoughts.

Have an Advocate by Your Side

Let us help! Having an experienced, professional Nurse Patient Advocate at your side can ensure that YOUR voice is heard and your health care wishes are carried out. We will work with all members of your healthcare team to not only ensure that you have an accurate diagnosis but understand that diagnosis and the treatment options available to you.

For more information, contact Carolina Patient Advocates.

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