The 6 “Be's” of a good primary care visit
By Sully Cardona MD
In the fast paced age we are living in today, it is common for physician visits to feel rushed. It can be hard to develop a good patient-doctor relationship. Patients have been sharing their dissatisfaction via patient surveys. I have been a family medicine physician for about 5 years at a local community health center. Here are some tips to get the most out of your primary care visits.
Be prepared: Write down your list of concerns: It’s easy to forget and be flustered when you’re face to face with your doctor. Do you need refills? If you don’t know the names and dosages of all the medicines you are taking, bring a list or your physical bottles. Are you having side effects from any of the medications? Is there a skin mole you’re concerned about? Or do you need tips on achieving a healthy weight?
Be understanding: Most appointment slots are scheduled for 15 minutes. That means that your doctor might not be able to get to all of your concerns. Be flexible and schedule more follow-up appointments to discuss your concerns. If you have several chronic medical conditions (such as diabetes or high blood pressure), be prepared for the doctor to spend the majority of the visit on these. Sometimes patients feel unheard when the doctor wants to spend more time focusing on their chronic medical conditions than their immediate concerns. Having a good relationship with your physician will help create trust and lead to more satisfying encounters.
Be on time: If your appointment time is at 10 AM, that means you should be checked in and waiting to be called inside by 10 AM. Most practices have a 10-15 minute grace period, but remember that if every patient shows up 15 mins late, your appointment will be pushed back accordingly as your doctor tries to catch up.
Be Flexible: as primary care doctors we literally have no idea what our day is going to look like. Since I’m a family medicine physician, I could have several easy, healthy, well child check-ups or I could have to disclose a new cancer diagnosis. Sometimes our electronic system stops working. There is nothing that stresses us out more than running behind, so please believe us when we say we work very hard to prevent this. If I have a new devastating diagnosis, I would want my doctor to take the time to answer my questions and offer some comfort.
Be proactive: Insurance is hard. Period. They change their coverage at the drop of a hat. They require pre-authorizations from one month to another. While we may be the only “face” you see in your medical encounter, please be aware that we have nothing to do with your insurance decisions. I encourage my patients to be proactive and call their insurance companies to find out what is covered, how much their copay will be etc.
Be healthy: Your doctor is going to tell you that you need to follow a healthy diet and exercise, sleep 7-8 hrs a night, and actively engage in stress-reducing activities. A lot of patients' health issues come from the lack of the above. Remember you might only see your doctor for 15 minutes several times a year, so it is up to you to take ownership of your health in between.
About the author: Sully Cardona MD is a board certified family medicine physician working in a community based health center for the last 5 years. Her interests include preventative care, family planning, procedures and lifestyle counseling. She is interested in helping patients become more proactive in their health. She earned a B.A in Chemistry from the University of Chicago, her M.D from the University of Illinois and completed her residency training at the Northwestern McGaw Family Medicine Residency Program. She is bilingual, fully fluent in Spanish. She likes to travel and play with her 2 younf daughters.
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