Today’s post is an answer to a reader’s question about getting in to see a doctor, and it’s a good one!
How do I make a doctor appointment? Is there anything I need to take with me, or what?
Sooner or later we all end up at the doctor’s office. What do we need to bring or do ahead of time?
If you choose to go to a walk-in clinic, have your insurance card and your photo ID, walk up to the receptionist and she’ll tell you what to do. (Usually it goes something like: Fill this out, sit down over there. NEXT!)
You can also call ahead and see if they have any other requirements, like upfront payment, and see what the wait time is. Then you can decide whether you really need a doctor bad enough to wait in a room full of sick people. 😉
Ideally, you should have a primary care physician that you choose and who will work with your personal beliefs and choice of care. Finding a new doctor can be a challenge, especially if you’ve moved to a new area. First off, ask around among your friends. Try calling your insurance company to see if there are any local providers that take your plan.
Making The Appointment
When you call and make an appointment, usually the receptionist will tell you what you need to bring with you. She will also ask you for what type of insurance you have and your group number, as well as why you want an appointment. Do you have a specific problem, or is it a routine checkup? The billing codes and amount of time allowed for the appointment is affected by what you need. The doctor may not treat your type of problem, or you may need to go to the ER.
List Your Meds and Supplements
When you go take a list of any medications and what dosage you use, including vitamin or herbal supplements. Always ask your pharmacist and do research if you are on medication. Some herbs, vitamins, and minerals can affect or interfere with your meds.
Insurance and Payment
Check with your insurance to see if you have a copayment amount, and ask the doctor’s office staff if you are expected to pay at the time of visit or if they will bill you. Also ask if you can get a discount for cash payment. Some doctors do that.
List Your Concerns
Take with you a list of your symptoms and when they started, as well as any concerns or questions for the doctor so that you don’t forget to ask what you need to know. If you’re female they’re going to want to know the dates of your cycle and if you’re pregnant, in many cases. Hormonal fluctuations matter, in spite of what the PMS deniers claim.
Before you see a new doctor you may be required to fill out an extensive history including your family’s health history as well as your personal history and symptoms. They may mail it to you hardcopy, or email you a link to fill it out online. Doing this at home when you have time to think and be thorough (and maybe call a relative to ask what grandma died of) will keep you from forgetting something important.
Knowing your family history accurately can be invaluable in preventing or treating a health issue before it does too much damage. It’s easier to put out a campfire than it is to put out a forest fire, especially if the match that starts it all never gets lit in the first place. If you can, talk to your grandparents, find out your family history, and not just for the family health history. Record their stories. You’ll treasure it in years to come.
On My Soapbox
Or When to Choose a Different Doctor
In my personal opinion a doctor that isn’t interested in family history or personal history isn’t worth wasting money on.
Family and personal history are pivotal in your healthcare journey. You are not just a machine that requires periodic maintenance and new parts. You’re a person, and your mental and emotional health and lifestyle matter to your physical wellbeing. Some doctors are too focused on whatever their specialty is (“I only do hips, not spines”) and won’t take into account a total picture.
That kind of doctor won’t take good care of you. Be your own advocate. Trust your instincts. Remember, the doctor works for you, not the other way around, so do not be afraid to ask them to explain until you understand. Really understand. They should also respect your belief system and show you the same respect you show them.