“Planned patienthood”

The Boston Globe advises patients on how to Make the most of a doctor’s visit. Patients need to plan for their visit by coming up with –and writing down– the two or three key things they want to discuss. Then the patient needs to bring those issues up at the beginning of the encounter and make sure the questions are addressed. It’s no good to wait until the “doorknob” moment at the end of the appointment to ask the key questions.

Patients shouldn’t assume their doctors know their medical history. Notes may be missing or illegible or the doctor may not have had the time to read them. It’s a good idea to bring along a list –or even a bagful– of all current prescription drugs, OTCs, and herbal medications. When a patient is really sick or has trouble expressing him or herself it’s good to bring someone else along to listen and help ask questions.

Consumer directed care means more than just checking prices. It means patients (aka consumers) should prepare for doctors’ visits the way they would prepare for a business meeting or a class. One-on-one time with the doctor is fleeting and precious, so it also makes sense to have some technological support to extend the relationship beyond that time frame and to minimize the number of routine tasks (like accessing medical history and assembling drug lists) that could be done at another time.

Patients should seek out doctors that use web-based secure messaging tools –which help patients and doctors stay in touch between appointments and make it easier to frame and receive answers to questions. Doctors with electronic health records (EHRs) are also more likely to have patients’ medical records at their finger tips. And patients can consider establishing a personal health record –either electronically or on paper– to keep track of their medications, significant medical events and allergies.

September 20, 2005

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