September 2007 - Satisfaction Guaranteed!

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So often, I talk with people who have been for a doctor's visit and cannot remember any of the details of the information they received. They don't know the name of their ailment; they don't know what tests were ordered; they have no idea of the medication prescribed. If I ask them why they didn't ask their doctor for a detailed explanation, they'll say things like "Oh, she so busy, I didn't want to take up her time." Or "I really didn't know what to ask him." Or "I thought I understood when she was telling me, but I've forgotten most of it since I left the office." In other words, they've just paid their hard-earned money for an expert opinion they cannot understand or explain to anyone (including themselves). This does not make a lot of sense. You owe it to yourself to understand what's going on with your body and what you've paid your money for. When you visit the doctor, here are some things to keep in mind that will help you leave a satisfied customer.

First and most importantly, forget the notion that your doctor is too busy to answer your questions. Think of your doctor as your personal medical consultant who is being paid (by you) to help you stay healthy as well as diagnose and treat your illnesses. You and your doctor are a team. You can only get the best service from your doctor if you provide accurate and detailed information, which in turn, will allow the physician to give you his/her best advice and treatment. If this takes time, that's okay. Although doctors are busy people, it doesn't mean that you should short-change your visit. Rather, go into the visit prepared with your symptoms and your questions ready to discuss. A good doctor appreciates a well-prepared patient. Sometimes, it helps to write down your questions ahead of time-that way, you're less likely to forget something you really want or need to know. But even if you do forget something, you should feel free to call the doctor if you have additional questions after you leave the office.

Second, pay close attention to what the doctor is telling you. No one expects you to have a medical degree, but you can listen carefully and ask questions about things that you don't understand. Your doctor will not think you're "dumb" (if so, get another doctor), or speak to you in a condescending manner. Remember, your doctor is your consultant. It's his job to explain things to you so that you leave the visit with a clear understanding of your medical status, medications, or treatment plan. For instance, you might say, "Doctor Jones, am I to understand that I have type 2 diabetes caused by my excess weight, and that you're prescribing oral medication (name it), twice daily? How much weight do I need to lose over what period of time?" How long will I need to take the medication?" These types of questions will help you review and process what the doctor has said.

Third, it's a good idea to write down what the doctor tells you, or better yet, have the doctor write it down. You might want to create your own medical records file or notebook so you can track progress or have results handy if you have multiple doctors treating you. Some people even take tape recorders with them to record what the doctor tells them. This is a great idea that enables you to play it back later to refresh your memory or to provide clarity for a caregiver at home.

Finally, if the doctor prescribes a new medication, it's a good idea to talk with your pharmacist about it before you leave the pharmacy. Have the pharmacist review the medication with you. Notice the color, shape, odor, and dosage of the medication. Ask about possible side effects and adverse reactions, and the possibility of cross-reactions if you're taking more than one medication. Once you're familiar with the medication and have it refilled, be certain the medicine in the bottle is the one that you're accustomed to taking. If it looks or smells differently, talk to the pharmacist before you take the medicine.

When it comes to your health, remember that your doctor's visit is only as good as the questions you're willing to ask. To ensure that you're a satisfied customer-don't be afraid to ask questions!

With you on your Journey To Wellness…
Dr. Mary S. Harris

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