Making the Most of Your Care
You are the most important member of your healthcare team and will be successful if you play an active role in your care. Here is the reason(s) why:
- You maintain control. Research shows, those that take charge of their health care do better.
- What you remember changes over time. You may not remember important details about doctor's visit or how the treatment affected you between visits. This is especially true if you have hearing problems, multiple medical problems, are overwhelmed, grieving, frightened or have memory difficulties.
- Treatment is complex. It can be hard to remember everything you have tried, are doing now or would like to change for the future.
- Your doctor does not know everything about you. Don’t assume that your doctor can read your mind, understand what is most important to you or remember every treatment that you have tried and when. Even if this information is written in the chart, it can be buried somewhere in the notes and not easy to find.
- Communication can be difficult. Speech, memory, anxiety, and writing problems are just a few of the ways communication is affected with Parkinson's disease.
- Enhance success of therapy. Having goals for a doctor's visit helps prioritize your time and gets your needs met.
- Maximize time. Given today's medical system your doctor may only have 10 to 20 minutes to spend with you. Be prepared to get the most from this time.
This guide will help you get the most out of your medical visits, optimize your time and enhance communication with your health care team (click here to print a copy.)
STEP 1: PLAN AHEAD FOR YOUR DOCTOR'S VISIT
Be organized. Keep a dedicated notebook for your doctor visits. A simple 3 ring binder will work. You can then store your information, forms and appointment results in one convenient place.
- Write down your questions before your visit – sometimes you may forget to ask important questions during your doctor's appointment. Writing them down in a notebook helps remind you to ask when talking with your doctor. Remember to prioritize your questions as you may not have the time to address all in one visit. Allowing space to write answers will enable you to look back at a later time to refresh your memory after the appointment. Caregiver questions are also important and should be included. You can also keep a record of any changes your doctor makes to your treatment for quick reference.
- Set goals for your visit - This helps you set priorities for your visit and take charge of your goals so that you get your needs met.
STEP 2. ORGANIZE DOCUMENTS AND INFORMATION:
- Complete office visit questionnaire (See My Medical Chart if your doctor does not have one.)
- List of current medications and side effects if any
- Prior treatments and side effects if any
- Copies of previous labs, brain MRIs or CT Scans
- Medical notes and addresses of previous doctor
- Life planning documents, ie. advanced directives, power of attorney
STEP 3: OPTIMIZE YOUR VISIT
- Arrive at least 30 minutes earlier than your appointment to complete patient questionnaire forms. These forms have questions that your doctor feels are important for your visit, especially questions about your medications. Always bring a list of your current medications to each appointment. Completing patient questionnaire forms will:
- provide accurate information for your doctor
- provides for added communication between you and your doctor
- provide information that is part of your permanent medical record
- allow your doctor more time to spend talking instead of writing
- reduce medicaton errors
- Ask questions and learn about your condition. Important questions to ask include:
- How does my diagnosis impact my independence or quality of life?
- Do I need medication and if so, how long will I need to take it?
- What are the side effects of the medication?
- What symptoms or side effects should be reported immediately?
- How often should I make appointments?
- Where can I find more information about my diagnosis?
Optimize time with your doctor = equals more time to listen and answer your concerns and questions. Planning ahead, arriving early and completing forms accurately will save time for you and your doctor.
- Be realistic. Prioritize your needs.
- Can your doctor adequately address all 20 items on your list or is it better to prioritize the top 3. This also applies to information you bring in. The internet can be a source of great information but can your doctor read volumes of pages or can you help by summarizes or printing the best page for their use.
- Avoid statements like "same as last time" or "the doctor knows me."
- Another helpful and simple tip is simply to ask your doctor: "What information do you need from me to better treat me?
STEP 3: KEEP RECORDS DURING & BETWEEN VISITS
- Bringing along a family member or caregiver to keep track of instructions may help so you can focus on discussing concerns with your doctor. The doctor can only help with issues and concerns that you provide. Try to be an active member of your care. Caregivers can also learn more about your condition if present during medical visits.
- Keep records of treatments and how you responded to treatment between visits.
Monique L. Giroux, MD
Guest Blogger, Former Medical Director of NWPF