Confidence In A Paper Gown: How to be prepared for your next doctor appointment

Bzzz Bzzz my phone indicates I have received a message. I look at the screen “This is a reminder of your appointment November 20th. Reply “Y” to confirm your appointment, “N” to cancel, or call our office to reschedule. “

I press Y and hit send and am thankful that I feel prepared and confident for this doctor appointment. I go get the large envelope that I have written my checklist on.

  • Verified Doctor Received Previous Medical Records
  • Verify Medical Ride is Scheduled for Correct Day and Time
  • List of Current Prescriptions
  • List of Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbal Remedies
  • Food Log
  • Blood Pressure Log
  • List of Questions & Concerns
  • List and Contact Information of Specialists
  • Current Insurance Card
  • Photo ID
  • AARP Card
  • Blank Paper & Pen
  • Practice Using the Voice Recorder on My Phone

Reviewing my list, I see that I only have few more things to collect and do prior to my doctor appointment. My last doctor’s appointment I was not prepared and left feeling small, confused and that my doctor did not understand my concerns.  This time I understand that the doctor-patient relationship has changed from 30 years ago, from the doctor telling me what to do and expecting I will comply, to an open team-based relationship where I should feel free to ask questions and ask for different options.

Before the Appointment

A month prior to your appointment start taking notes about symptoms and concerns that you want to talk to your doctor about. Include frequency of the symptom, what you were doing when it occurred, type of pain if any, and pain level. Your notes should also include any tests or procedures that may be coming up such, mammograms, blood tests, or colonoscopy and any questions or concerns you may have about them. Get a large envelope or create a list on a smart device and create a list of items that you need for the appointment and things that need to be completed prior to the visit, such as transfer of medical records or scheduling medical transport.

Review the provided list above and add any additional things that apply to your situation or things your doctor requested.
Ask a Doctor: How Do You Prepare for a Doctor’s Visit?

If you feel more comfortable having a family member or friend go with you, they can provide morale support, help you remember what the doctor said or coming up with additional questions on the spot.

Preparing for a telehealth visit you can follow the same process but also make sure you have downloaded the application and your username and password are set up and you can login with no issues. Click here to read AARP’s article about getting started with Telehealth.

During the Appointment

When you go to your doctor appointment it is natural to feel anxiety. Your prior preparations should help ease your anxiety and be more control of the appointment.

When checking in verify that your contact information is the same as your previous appointment and provide updated private insurance cards if you have them. For non-VA doctors and it is toward the end of the year, verify that your doctor will still accept your insurance the following year.

As the nurse checks you in be honest about your symptoms, concerns and that you have questions written down for the doctor. Provide the nurse with your logs, medicine list, and symptoms that are concerning you. This will help the doctor by having this information in the computer prior to them seeing you.

5 easy ways to prepare for your next doctor’s appointment — a doctor’s perspective

When you ask your questions start with the most important question first and work your way down since the doctor does have limited. Any questions that you were not able to ask request another appointment or ask the doctor if you can email the questions to them.

Do not try and rely on your memory for what the doctor said, the anxiety of the doctor appointment details may be missed, write down the answers or ask the doctor if they are ok with you recording them so you can review them later. Make sure you understand if there are any changes to your current health plan, this includes changes in medication, follow up appointments, or changes to your lifestyle and these changes are written down in your notes. Before you leave make sure you are clear on any next steps that you need to take.

After the Appointment

Review your care summary and the answers from the doctor. If you have follow-up questions do not hesitate to call your doctor’s office and either ask for a follow up call from your doctor or see if the nurse can answer your question. If the nurse is not able to answer your question they can follow up with the doctor and get your answer.

Your insurance company will send you an explanation of benefits once they process the insurance claim from your doctor. Review this to verify what was submitted matches the care you received and matches the doctors detail bill. Any questions call the billing department at your doctor’s office and they can explain issues or questions you may have.

Coordinating Care With the VA

The VA can coordinate with non-VA doctors and bill your private insurance to help cover the cost that is not covered by the VA for non-service-related items.  Private insurance, in some situations, will cover a portion of your cost that was owed to the VA. Click here to read a summary of insurance benefits and how they work at the VA. Visit your local VSO and they can help walk you through how multiple insurance policies can benefit you at the VA, click here to find your local VSO.

As a veteran you are not restricted to using only VA doctors.[NL1]  If you have private insurance or other government insurance, you can visit those doctors and specialists according to those insurance plans. If you visit doctors outside the VA system make sure and get your records from your VA doctor and that your VA doctor receives the records from the non-VA doctors.

Community Care program can be used if the VA is unable to provide the service you need, view the video below to get detail on this program. The VA will refer and work with a Community Provider to provide the care you need, click here to review the VA’s overview on Community Care or click here to visit Know A Vet? to find your local VSO.

Watch for future article on how to get financial help as a senior veteran.

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