Professional Opinion: How to be a better patient ...

loberle@islandpacket.comMarch 17, 2014 

Dr. Erik Baker

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This week, Dr. Erik Baker at Beaufort Memorial Bluffton Primary Care gives us tips on how to get the most out of our doctors visits.

Question. How can I be a better patient at the doctor's office? What qualities does your best patient display?

Answer. Prioritize, prepare and play it straight.

With the increasing demand for health care services, it's more important than ever to make the most of the limited time you have with your physician. Tell your doctor up front the reason for your visit, come prepared to answer questions about your medical history and medications, and speak frankly about anything that could affect your health.

I can't tell you how often I get the hand-on-the-door-knob question. Just as I'm preparing to walk out of the room, the patient hits me with the real reason for the office visit. They may be embarrassed or uncomfortable discussing the problem, so they put it off to the end of the appointment. At that point, I may not have time to delve into the issue.

It's best to prioritize your medical concerns and start with the top item on your list. That way you're ensured the doctor will be able to address your most urgent problem. If time allows, you can bring up other issues, discuss chronic medical conditions or ask questions about preventive care.

To make an accurate diagnosis, your physician needs to know everything you are doing or taking that could affect your health. That includes home remedies, alternative medicines and dietary supplements. Be honest and forthcoming about excessive drinking, poor eating habits, drug use or smoking.

Tell your doctor about any changes you have made in your diet or lifestyle. It's best to share information, even if you don't think it's relevant. It can save you the pain and expense of a lot of unnecessary tests.

If you are a new patient or are seeing a specialist, bring all of your bottles of medications and supplements rather than a handwritten list. It avoids confusion and it will allow your doctor to determine the correct name of the medication, as well as the dosage.

Put the things you are currently taking in one plastic bag and drugs you previously took in another.

You'll also need to bring all of your medical records, including lab work and imaging tests. Your doctor can request the records, but you'll need to sign a release. Obtaining medical records can take time, so stop by your doctor's office to sign the form at least two weeks prior to your appointment.

Follow Laura Oberle at twitter.com/IPBG_Laura.

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