Planning for your physician visit has become essential now that doctors are busier and appointment times are shorter at the nation's clinics, maintains Margaret Wellington, a research nurse at Stanford (Calif.) University Medical Center. "First and foremost, we are recommending that patients keep a `Health History Notebook' or file folder that contains all information relevant to their health. This includes a list of current medications, what dose, and how it is taken; allergies to food or medicines; recent X-ray and lab reports, as well as any physician notes. Also keep a copy of your insurance card and your medical record number in the file or notebook as well.
"Patients can get the most out of their medical appointments and improve the care they receive by becoming knowledgeable managers of their own health. You don't have to completely understand everything in `My Patient File'--you can leave the technical information to your doctor or nurse--but you should have the material available for them to look at. Having all your medical records in one place is important in this age of managed care, increased specialization, and larger clinic settings. Even if you are seeing someone who knows your medical case, sometimes the medical record is not available and having a notebook will facilitate the visit immensely," Wellington explains.
When you are making an appointment with your clinic or doctor for a specific ailment or issue, Wellington and her physician colleagues recommend the following strategies:
* Be as specific as you can with the person helping you schedule the appointment about what your problem is. A typical 15-minute appointment isn't enough time for a comprehensive physical exam, which should be scheduled separately well in advance. At routine appointments, be very clear why you want to see the doctor. If the problem really is vague and nonspecific--"feeling more tired suddenly," for example--tell the person that is the purpose of the visit. …