Oh no, is it that time again? It’s the message from your doctor’s staff reminding you of your upcoming appointment. You remember that the last yearly check up went well, but are they going to find something this time you wonder? The voice on the other end of the phone awaits your decision. Confirm or postpone the appointment? Many of us would rather avoid the yearly visit with the doc. “Ok” you confirm. Where upon the administrator reminds you politely that your full fee is due if you cancel less than 24 hours before the visit.
The day you show up at the doctor’s office the administrator or nurse take over, handing you a pile of papers with lists of questions. Your job is to fill in the medical facts about your past and present state of health. Finally you are prompted to sign the questionnaire confirming that you are responsible for the charges resulting from this visit. Shouldn’t you learn about the charges ahead of time before agreeing to pay, you think?
Still in the waiting room, processing your health history, you feel somewhat uncomfortable. Even though this medical check-up is about you and your state of health, patients often complain that they feel rushed rather than reassured. Remember, this is your time to ask questions. Your doctor and you are aiming to get an accurate picture of your medical health. Don’t be shy to address all your issues, even your most sensitive questions such as low libido or vaginal dryness. Your doctors want to learn as much as they can about your health in a relatively short time.
A New York Times survey reports that “Doctors spend between 11 and 15 minutes with the patient” So it is essential to use this precious time in a judicious way. That means prepare to optimize the upcoming medical session; make a list of any current health problems you experience and what treatment you are using, if any. Hand your doctor the summary you prepared, listing all the medications you are taking, including vitamins, and any nutraceuticals or other supplements. If you are over the age of fifty, you are more prone to getting shingles, pneumonia, influenza, and other illnesses. However, there are effective vaccines available to protect you, so include on your list any vaccines you have had and the dates you had them, and remember to ask the doctor if there are any vaccines that you are due for
Dr. Alan Weinberger, Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at the School of Medicine at UCLA, and Attending Physician at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, suggests that “Boomer patients fifty and over should definitely ask about mammograms, pap smears and colorectal cancer screening, beyond going through the traditional yearly check up program. There are times,” he adds, “when a patient and the doctor don’t see eye-to-eye. Whatever the reason, if you’re not comfortable with your physician, don’t hesitate to choose an alternative doctor with whom you do feel comfortable. Sometimes you might decide to get a second opinion about a particular procedure. That is not only your right, but may be the smart decision to make. To optimize the patient-doctor relationship, it is most important to develop a sense of trust, so you can feel confident about the advice that is recommended.”
Choosing the right doctor is not always easy. There are many sources to help, including a Google search. Many professionals have their own website, so you can learn about them. Your friends and relatives can be another valuable source, especially if they are knowledgeable about the medical specialty you need to know about. Often the Chairmen of the various departments at your local major hospital can make appropriate referrals. The best way to stay healthy is for you to participate actively with your medical expert. You both share in your well being.