DALLAS - You have waited for this medical appointment. You have accumulated a laundry list of concerns to discuss. However, you have only 15 minutes with your doctor. Time to think like a Boy Scout and be prepared.
To gain the maximum benefit of an office visit, it is important to focus on your main concerns. According to a report earlier this year in the journal Medical Care, the time patients spend with the doctor has increased in recent years, but the number of problems addressed during the visit increased substantially more, restricting the doctors' ability to discuss basic healthy living strategies.
When patients prepare for their office visits, doctors can provide better care. Follow Dr. Jane Sadler's 4-point checklist to help:
1. Review your past medical history with the doctor. You must have a complete, open and transparent discussion of your past history. Be certain your doctor is made aware of past issues, including but not limited to your family cancer history, depression or past heart problems.
Write these down and do not be afraid to mention sensitive issues such as bladder control, intimacy or gastrointestinal problems.
Be certain to review your use of over-the-counter medicines such as aspirin and ibuprofen. These medicines might cause gastrointestinal problems such as inflammation and bleeding, especially if taken with blood thinners. They may also interfere with the effectiveness of some blood pressure medications.
This information helps your doctor focus on preventive management as it pertains to your personal list of concerns. Your doctor will be better able to direct the physical exam and lab work for purposes of identifying and treating disease early. Early intervention is the best intervention.
2. Address your weight management and exercise. Yes, you need to exercise. Addressing this topic alone could directly affect your other ailments. Exercise can relieve symptoms such as fatigue, depression and high blood pressure. Exercise improves energy, mood and heart health. Moderate-intensity exercise (fast walking) is healthy for the joints, especially if you are overweight. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that a brisk 4.3-mile walk achieves the same energy expenditure and physical benefits as a 3-mile run.
3. Bring all your medications to your appointment and discuss generic options. With many large chain stores offering $4 generic medicines, you could save big money. Your physician or the pharmaceutical companies might have money-saving coupons for you.
4. Disclose all vitamins and supplements. It is not unusual for a patient to come into the office wishing to reduce their medication expenditures. At the same time, they may be purchasing several expensive vitamins and supplements. Remember that supplements are not regulated the same as medications (see the May 2012 Consumer Reports). Some might contain contaminants or have prescription drug interactions that can be harmful. Examples of supplements with significant prescription medication interactions include St. John's wort, ginkgo, kava, digitalis and willow. The Archives of Internal Medicine 2011 states: "Based on existing evidence, we see little justification for the general and widespread use of dietary supplements unless there is a medical reason or deficiency of a particular nutrient."
For more information on dietary supplements refer to the National Institutes of Health Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet, available online at ods.od.nih.gov.
In summary, do your homework. Getting to know your doctor well, writing down your concerns and bringing a complete medication list can help optimize everyone's time during the doctor visit.
(Dr. Jane Sadler is a family medicine physician on staff at Baylor Medical Center at Garland, Texas. She blogs at healthblog.dallasnews.com.)
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