By Dr. Patricia Téllez Girón
Faculty, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health,
My doctor is very good; however, I noticed every time I go to see her, she’s always late! I wonder why this is happening. Also, sometimes they assign me a different doctor and I don’t know why.
Well, there can be many reasons why. Some reasons are associated with the health system and others with the patients and not the doctors. When patients are unfamiliar with navigating the health system, it may contribute to the issue of being late to appointments. Additionally, patients may be asking questions about other individuals, family members or friends while at the appointment and extending their visit.
As patients learn how to be better consumers, the health system works more smoothly. In the following article, I’ll give you some tips on improving your medical care and with this — your health!
- Have a PCP, clinic or hospital for you and your family. Remember your hospital and doctor’s name. Write it down and place it in an easy spot to find later. Learn the best way to get a hold of them. In some occasions, it is not necessary to be seen at a clinic to get advice, and it could be free!
- Make sure to choose a health care provider you trust and feel comfortable with. Your relationship with your provider is very important to have good health outcomes.
- If you have health insurance, keep your ID card on you at all times. Ask about what type of benefits you have and where to go for regular and emergency checkups. IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW THIS, not your clinic's or health care provider's.
- In case you or your family need help, please make sure to have a list of all your important contacts and phone numbers. For instance, phone numbers of your clinic, urgent care and emergency room.
- When calling your clinic to make an appointment, don’t forget to mention ALL the reasons why you need to meet with your health provider. You don’t need to go into DETAILS, but request an EXTENDED visit. Ask if you need to be fasting and any other instructions.
- Ask who is seeing you at your visit. If possible, try to get your follow-up appointments and preventive care with your PCP.
- Make sure your clinic has your correct contact information (address, health insurance and phone number). If you move or change your phone number, please call your clinic to update your information.
- Please be on time for your appointment. In case you can’t make it to the appointment, please call to cancel it.
- Plan enough time for your appointment. Keep in mind that your appointment could last up to two hours if it is necessary to do labs, X-rays, vaccinations, etc.
- Make the most out of your appointment. If possible, leave your children with a family member, nanny or someone you trust. Distractions might cause your health care provider not to have all the attention on you and your health concerns.
- Bring all your medicines to your appointment and make sure they’re up-to-date on your file.
- Request an interpreter. It is a free benefit. Even if you can understand some English. Your health is important and you need to understand everything that’s being discussed. For many reasons a family member is not appropriate interpreters.
- If possible, make a list of the reasons why you are visiting the clinic today. By doing this your visit will be more efficient and you won’t forget everything you wanted to ask.
- In a firm but respectful way, ask all your questions, especially if you don’t understand something your PCP is talking about. If you feel it necessary, please ask for an overview of the most important topics from your visit. They can also write it down and give it to you once your visit finished.
- Request your results in writing with a clear explanation and in your preferred language. Don’t think they turned out normal because no one called you or sent you a letter.
- Be mindful and respectful of your PCP’s time. Your visit is only for you and no other member of your family. If you have concerns about other family members, make an appointment for each of them. By doing this your PCP will focus only on you and not on them at your visit.
- Follow up at your clinic, as recommended; especially if you have a chronic disease such as diabetes or high blood pressure. If you don’t have them, you may go to the clinic at least once a year.