Be a Better Patient, Get a Better Doctor
7 steps to getting the most out of your next office visit
These days, many doctors have a lot of patients in their waiting rooms and a lot of red tape with which to deal. One of the biggest patient complaints is waiting. However, oftentimes patients have only themselves to blame.
“It’s probably due to the patients before you coming in late,” said Dr. Jackie Eghrari-Sabet, of Family ENT, Allergy & Asthma Center in Gaithersburg, Md. “That throws the whole schedule off. If everyone came on time with all their paperwork filled out, we would all run on time.”
But being an on-time patient is only part of the prescription. There are a zillion ways that patients waste doctors’ time and their own.
Here is a list of time savers and other steps to help improve the service that your doctor provides:
- Show up prepared. In addition to having all of your paperwork filled out before you arrive, have your pharmacy give you a copy of all the prescription meds that you’ve taken for the past year. Also, take along copies of your lab work and x-rays, and know your other doctors’ names, addresses and fax numbers.
- Stick to one problem per visit. “You can’t have all your medical problems taken care of in one visit,” Dr. Jackie said. “The allergist will tell you one allergy at a time (food, asthma or contact rash). The orthopedist will tell you one joint at a time. You have to schedule more than one appointment.”
- Don’t take the family. “If you want your spouse or significant other to discuss your treatment and be in on the conversation, they need to be at the appointment,” according to Dr. Jackie. But there’s no room in the office for all of the kids. Also, remember that a child under 18 must be accompanied by an adult who is well-versed on the medical problem you want the doctor to treat.
- Don’t phone in for prescription refills if you haven’t seen the doctor. “We cannot refill meds if you haven’t been in to see us. It’s actually against the law,” Dr. Jackie said. She also said that when doctors change medication, they need to see you to effectively follow your progress.
- Be honest about medication. If you haven’t taken it as prescribed, fess up. “More than half of the prescriptions written by doctors are never filled,” Dr. Jackie said.
- Avoid no-show fees; keep your appointment. There is little room in most doctors’ schedules to juggle you around. Many doctors are starting to require a credit card number to keep on file to cover late-cancellation and no-show fees.
- Know what your own insurance covers. “We are just the middle man,” said Dr. Jackie. “We can’t keep track of your deductibles and co-payments. That’s up to you and your carrier. Also, get written referrals if you have an HMO. We can’t get them for you.”