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How to Prepare for a New Doctor



Going to a doctor's appointment can be an overwhelming event for many. Due to the stress caused by some experiences at Doctor's appointments, some may delay making an appointment unless they believe something is wrong or have lingering symptoms that won't go away. But attending regular Doctor's visits is essential in maintaining one's health and building a relationship with the medical professionals caring for you or your loved one.


Whether you are healthy, living with a chronic condition, newly diagnosed, or acting as a Caregiver for someone with an illness, visiting the Doctor can be intimidating and unsettling. You might have questions about the next steps, not know what to ask, or desire to have as much information as is available for wellness and treatment. With the limited time physicians have available to meet with their patients getting all the necessary answers and information can be challenging.


As an illness progresses, various doctors and specialists may be added to the care team you or your loved one will see regularly. Multiple Doctor visits can be daunting and exhausting for the patient and their Caregiver. These appointments may be out of town, taking additional time from your regular schedule and adding to the feeling of being overwhelmed. The patient and Caregiver may already be experiencing elevated stress or anxiety due to the health challenges they are facing. Anticipating the unknown, multiple appointments, new doctors and specialists, labs, rehab, time constraints and demands, daily living needs, etc., can add to that stress for both the patient and Caregiver. How can some of the stress be lessened or eliminated in such a challenging season of life? Here are some practical and helpful suggestions for both the patient and the Caregiver, whether trying to maintain optimum health, facing a new diagnosis, or living with a chronic illness.


When a new diagnosis is received, an onslaught of appointments will likely follow. In addition, the daily care demands may change and become more involved and can be hard to manage. You will want to use your time as best suits your desires and needs. You do not want to be left with the thought or feeling that you have wasted or squandered precious moments at an unproductive, uninformative, or unhelpful Doctor's appointment. Maximizing your time with the Doctor is essential to support your overall health and develop a successful working relationship with your doctors and their staff.


Plan for a Pleasant Day

It may seem contradictory to anticipate a pleasant adventure and a doctor's appointment on the same day, but it is possible and can benefit everyone. If your schedule, health, and energy level allow, try to add an enjoyable activity before or after the Doctor's appointment. Having something other than the appointment alone to focus on can emphasize the delightful and not just the necessary. Maybe you can go out to eat at a favorite spot, grab a specialty cup of coffee, stop by your favorite shop or market, visit a friend, go on a country drive, see a movie, tour a museum, pack a picnic, etc. There are so many pleasant possibilities! Having ready access to portable supplies in the car or a bag is invaluable on appointment day: extra snacks, water, hand wipes, and clothes are some items to consider. Preparedness can eliminate much stress.


Map it!

Will you be headed to a new location? Call the office in advance and confirm the details of your appointment. Confirm the date, time, and location several days in advance. It is not usual for medical professionals to have multiple office locations; you need to be reassured about the exact location of your appointment. Ask for details such as suite numbers, what floor the office is on, where to park, if there is a parking fee, lobby, main entrance, handicap access, etc. You might ask the office staff if there is any road construction, traffic delays, or other unusual events in the area. This information could help you adjust your travel time. If this will be your first visit to this site, you can ask about the nearest major cross streets, businesses, or other identifiers nearby.


Before Your Doctor's Appointment

Before your appointment, call the office and ask if there is any paperwork you can fill out in advance of your appointment. Completing the paperwork before the day of the appointment will save time. If you have a preference between pen and paper and online forms, ask the office staff if you can choose the best option for yourself. Be sure to submit your documents online and confirm the office has received them or keep them in a place with all the other information you will bring to the office. You can also ask the office staff to confirm that they accept your Health Insurance. You will most likely be required to bring your insurance card, identification card, and payment method to your appointment.


Doctor's Visit Check List

Make a list of items that you want to bring to your appointment. Double-check it before you leave home for peace of mind. Some items you might consider include your phone, phone charger, Doctor's phone number, address, map, paperwork, ID, insurance card, medication or medication list, extra snacks, water, extra clothes, medical test results, paper, pen, a good book, and a friend!



What to Ask a Doctor on a First Visit

It can seem unnecessary to write down your questions, symptoms, medications, or other information before your appointment, but this simple step has multiple benefits. Studies show that writing things down can relieve your mind of the stress of trying to remember or recall information under pressure. This record of information can be pen and paper, electronic, or digital, such as an app. Putting your thoughts, questions, or information in a notes app on a smartphone or paper notebook will keep everything in one place, making it easy to access during the appointment. If using the notes app, give it a simple label, such as "Questions for Dr. XXX." If you know you will be meeting with several different doctors, this helps keep the doctor-specific questions separate and easy to find. Written notes can also serve as a guide to help you keep track of the discussion during the visit and not overlook any of your written questions or concerns.


Also, remember to bring your calendar with you to your appointment. Access to a paper or digital calendar while at your appointments will be helpful when scheduling any return appointments, labs, or therapies. It will save you time and the trouble of calling the office staff back if you can schedule doctor-recommended appointments while at the Doctor's office.


Here is a sample list of questions and considerations that you, your family, and your Caregiver might choose to discuss with your health professional at your appointments:

  • What may have caused this condition? Will it be permanent?

  • How is this condition treated or managed?

  • What will be the long-term effects on my life?

  • How can I learn more about my condition?

  • Should I be aware of or watch for any additional symptoms?

  • Do I need a follow-up visit, and if so, when?

  • How can I best communicate with you and your staff? Which method is the preferred and fastest way to contact you and receive a return response? Phone, email, text, patient portal, or other?

  • How do I connect with you after hours or on the weekends?

  • Be sure to mention all over-the-counter medications, vitamins, supplements, or homeopathic remedies you are using. Your Doctor needs a complete picture for the best possible care.

  • Mention all symptoms you are experiencing or have experienced since your last appointment. No change is too small to mention to your medical professional.

  • Ask for any resources the Doctor may have that might be helpful, such as a pamphlet on your condition, coupons for discounts on prescription medications, free in-office samples, local support groups, online articles, etc.

  • If your Doctor is prescribing a new medication or changing the dosage of a current one, record the name and dosage while at the Doctor's office so that you can verify you have received the correct prescription at the pharmacy.


Be a Note-taker

Many Clinician offices will offer you a summary of your interaction with your Healthcare professional at the conclusion of your appointment. These can be helpful in several ways. Reading the notes will allow you to verify the Doctor's recommendations, your next appointment date, your list of current medications, your vital statistics that were taken that day, and other general information.


Although helpful, the summary may not include details such as your questions and the Doctor's answers. It could be beneficial to have someone with you at your appointments to be your note-taker. Your time with the Doctor is limited and fast-paced, so additional support is invaluable. Referring to these more detailed notes at your leisure will give you a clearer understanding of the details discussed and the recommended steps.

If you attend a doctor's appointment to support the patient, you may have questions and concerns that you would like to express- especially if you are a family member or Caregiver. Remember to allow the patient time to speak to the Doctor first. You can help guide the conversation to stay on track, but allowing the patient to talk directly to the Healthcare professional will reassure them that they can still make decisions about their health.


There's an App for that!

If you are an active smartphone user, you can find various apps in the app store to help you manage and track your medications. If you are an iPhone user, the Health App has a section where you can record all medicines. It's effortless to add or update your current list of medications. You can search by prescription name or scan a picture of the bottle.


Because bringing the most current and up-to-date medications, vitamins, and supplements list to every Doctor's appointment is necessary, these apps can simplify the process, guaranteeing you won't forget your list at home.


If your Doctor prescribes a new medication, you can track any changes, side effects, or symptoms.




Support

We all benefit from the love, care, and support of family, friends, or a Caregiver in various seasons of our lives. They play a vital role in our health and well-being. In the early days of a diagnosis, you might be able to manage your care independently. There could come a day when additional support and resources would be helpful. Having the tools and resources mentioned in this article available and ready to use will maximize the care for you and your loved one and lessen the stress you may experience.


The VirtuALZ Care Team can be one of those supportive tools. VirtuALZ provides professional recommendations, support, resources, and referrals to its members. Benefits are provided to the patient and Caregiver without requiring them to leave the privacy and safety of their home.


VirtuALZ focuses on proactive relationships with patients and Caregivers to support them daily in their healthcare challenges. This supportive relationship can reduce unnecessary, stressful, and costly visits to the hospital, urgent care, emergency room, and Doctor. Your personal Care Team will also advocate on your behalf at Doctor's appointments and help you formulate questions in advance to discuss with your medical professionals. Your Care Team can also communicate with your medical professionals if you prefer.


The VirtuALZ Care Team includes Social Workers, Registered Nurses, and Care Navigators who provide valuable support to patients and Caregivers. This support system has proven effective and helpful in reducing stress for the patient and Caregiver and providing better care.

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