Patient tips for your first office visit

Starting a new job can be exciting, a new challenge, while embarking on a new journey.  I have the opportunity to meet many new fellow docs, staff, and kind patients.  However, I have to admit that it is a tad more challenging in the beginning when starting a new practice from scratch.  I do miss the familiar patient faces that knew me and trusted my medical abilities without question.  But I also realize that it will take some time before feeling that same comfort level again with my new patients, as I build my new patient-physician relationships over time.

I sure do wish my patients knew a few tips that would make our first visit more efficient and eventful, before they come to see me for the very first time.  This is especially helpful in my rather complicated patients with more complex and/or numerous health conditions.  Oh, how I wish I could communicate with my patients prior to that very first visit with me to share these tidbits of info.

Bring your list of diagnoses.  Every patient should have a running list of their diagnoses, and should be adding to this list as time goes by in life.  It’s important to ask your current doc for a list of your health conditions, because if you were to ever change doctors or clinics, there will be a lag time in which your records may be transferred.  Or if you were to ever have to visit an Emergency Room (hopefully never), the doctor there won’t know anything about your history and may not have access to any of your records.  They may have to “guess” everything.  Your health is too important for any “guesses.”  Imagine if you would just “whip out” that diagnosis list!  Boy, would they be so impressed!  As patients, we all really need to take ownership of our health.

Bring all of your medication bottles.  Even if there is an electronic medical record system that keeps track of your medications, I still want to see what you are actually taking, not just what is listedon a silly computer screen.  I’ve talked about the importance of bringing your bottles to every appointment in my blog previously.  This keeps us both in check – less risk for mistakes (which I catch ALL the time by checking my patients’ bottles)!  Plus, I learn a lot by looking at the bottle – what your diagnosis may be, who prescribed it to you, how many refills you have, etc.  Bring everything – even your vitamins and herbals.

Make an appointment just to “establish” with your new doc.  That first visit is going to take a good deal of time since it’s your first one.  EVERYTHING will need to be reviewed.  Yes, even if it’s “already in your chart,” your doctor is going to go through your entire history from scratch.  This is because most doctors like to be thorough.  And the information, even if “written” in the chart already, was written by somebody else.  It needs to be verified with the patient at this first visit to make sure that it is error-free.  Why?  Because your health is too important to take a risk!  What if your new doc wrote you a prescription for a medication that you were actually allergic to, and that you had forgotten to tell your old doctor about it?  Or, what if your brain completely repressed the fact that you were hospitalized for two weeks after a horrible fight with your gallbladder, which was subsequently taken out, and you just simply “forgot” to mention that to your last doc (these things really happen, I’m not kidding).

Oh, how I would love to just meet all of my patients for an “establishment” visit, this would make for a much smoother transition, before they actually suffer from that nasty low back injury, urinary tract infection, or goodness forbid, that debilitating diabetic foot ulcer.  EVERY patient should have a visit to simply “establish,” withoutwaiting for a symptom to arise first.

I may not be able to catch all my patients to share these tips with them before we meet for the very first time, but maybe it will help you in your new-doc transition one day.

“Jill of All Trades” is a family physician who blogs at her self-titled site, Jill of All Trades, MD.

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