For most people, going to the doctor is a mildly stressful experience at best: Perhaps you’re not feeling well, which can make it extra-difficult to communicate your needs. Or perhaps you’re anticipating being rushed through an appointment, which puts you on edge. Maybe simply stepping into the office induces a fear response that inexplicably started in childhood and causes you to break out in a cold sweat.
Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to make your visit less stressful and more productive. Here’s what we recommend:
Make a List
For starters, you can spend a little time preparing for your appointment, just as you would for a business meeting. It sounds simple and it is, but preparation is a powerful way to reduce anxiety. So, make a list of your concerns and think about how you want to describe them. Once you have everything down on paper, you can take the next step, which is to put your list in order.
Look at your list, determine what you’d like to discuss the most, versus which items you’d be willing to table until a future visit. Put your list in rank-order, and when you’re in the office, bring up your top concerns first – don’t wait until you’re deep into the visit to bring them up. According to Larry Mauksch, MEd, a senior lecturer in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Washington, “What often happens is the first problem that a patient raises is the main thing that ends up getting talked about. The doctor and patient proceed through the visit until the patient realizes he has five minutes left and still has several more concerns. By that time, they’ve already used their time without making a decision about how to relegate time for their different problems.”
One Medical Group physician Andrew Diamond offers his perspective: “The important thing is that you and your provider decide the direction of each particular visit together. Based on your health history or your test results, your provider might have a slightly different set of priorities to work on, but the goal is to spend the first few minutes of the visit collaborating and coming up with a shared agenda.”
Finally, keep in mind that your annual physical (or “wellness” visit as it’s called by some insurance companies) may not the best time to bring in a long list of concerns. Physicals are chock full of to-dos—from making sure you are up to date on vaccines or screening tests, to making sure you get enough exercise, to checking your vital signs and examining your organ systems. If you’d also like to address several other specific problems, you might need to make a separate appointment.
Be Ready to Share
At One Medical Group, we don’t require that you send over your past medical records before your first visit. The best way for your provider to get a full picture of your health is by examining you and talking to you, so, be prepared to share your basic health history. If you have a very complex health history, bring the names and addresses of your other physicians so that your provider can request records afterward if necessary. You don’t need to bring them in advance.
Also, if you’re in the habit of researching your health questions online, we encourage you to come in and discuss your findings with us. Not all of the information you’ll find online is accurate or trustworthy, so bring a print-out or email your provider a link and we’ll review the source and the details. (For the record, the sites that we recommend are Mayo Clinic and UpToDate.)
Finally, when you go see a specialist, be sure to ask them to stay in touch with your primary care physician. “If your specialist has a recommendation, it’s important for us to know so we can help you meet your health goals,” says One Medical Group physician, Alicea Wu.
Allow Enough Time for the Administrative “Stuff”
If you have any requests that require paperwork—for example, you’re joining the Peace Corps, or you’re going on state disability, or you’re in need of a handicapped placard—be sure to let your provider know early on the in the visit. Lengthy paperwork often requires your input, too, so it’s a good idea to leave enough time during the visit to fill in the vital information.
Most doctors’ offices also recommend that you don’t leave prescription renewals until the last few minutes of the appointment. But keep in mind that if you’re a One Medical Group patient, the most efficient way to renew your prescription medications is through our online tool. To get started, login and click on Prescription Renewals.
Know Your Insurance
You can save yourself a lot of trouble by being familiar with your coverage. Know whether you have an HMO, PPO or POS plan (or something different). Understand your deductible and co-payment (if any), and be aware of whether your insurer covers laboratory fees and other tests. You might also check whether or not you need pre-authorization from your primary care physician in order to see a specialist. For example, some HMOs do not require pre-authorization to gynecologists, psychiatrists or dermatologists.
If you are interested in complementary medicine such as chiropractic or acupuncture, find out whether or not complementary medicine is covered. Knowing these things ahead of time will help your doctor get through the necessary paperwork more quickly and efficiently, which means that your follow-up care won’t be delayed.
Get to Know Your Practice
Every medical group functions a little bit differently and many practices now use technology and advice lines to make your life easier. Here are some convenient ways to get your needs met at One Medical Group:
- We allow you to book appointments and request prescription renewals online or via our iPhone app
- We offer email access to your provider and they will typically email you back within 24 hours.
- We don’t require that you get blood tests or screenings before your appointment – we prefer that you wait and see what your provider recommends.
- There are many things we can take care of for you without an appointment (travel vaccines or recurring urinary tract infections, for example). If you’re ever in doubt, call our office.
Find the Right Fit
We believe that you should leave your provider’s office feeling like your concerns were heard and acknowledged. Together you and your provider should come up with a health care plan that feels like the right fit for your needs. If, for some reason, you don’t “click” with your provider, we encourage you to try other providers in our group. If you go to the One Medical Group website and click Meet the Physicians, you’ll get a sense of their different specialties and areas of interest.