Monday, August 16, 2010

Preparing for Your Doctor's Appointment

We bet you had done a bit of research before you purchased the computer from which you are reading Zestzfulness.

And you would do the same to get all the options and the best possible bargain for the digital SLR you have promised yourself.

Likewise you should apply those tactics to one of your most important regular purchases: a trip to your doctor's clinic.

"Understand that ordinarily appointments are not very long," said Arthur Levin, director of the nonprofit Center for Medical Consumers. "Physicians talk a lot and don't always listen. You have to organize yourself in a way that you maximize the chances that the questions you have will be heard and answered."

Do a little homework before going to your doctor.

Here are some basic tips to help you prepare for your appointment:
  • Make a list of all of your symptoms and/or health concerns you've had on your mind.
  • Make a list of all the medications you're currently taking, including dosage. Include a list of all over the counter meds, herbals, vitamins, and supplements that you are taking.
  • Include information on medications that you have taken and if they worked for you or not. If they didn’t work or you had problems with the medication be sure to tell your doctor about it.
  • Bring a detailed copy of your (and your family's) medical history. Note any recent lifestyle changes.
  • Take a notepad and a pen with you and write down any information that the doctor gives you. If you don’t understand anything, make him explain it to you. There is no need to be embarrassed if you don't understand all the terminology. And if you write it down you can look it up later.

If your doctor prescribes a medicine, be sure to ask follow-up questions and these include:

    • Why are you prescribing this particular drug?
    • Are there alternatives to taking this medication?
    • What are the possible side effects?
    • Is there a generic version that will do the same job?
Many of our doctors maintain a little dispensary within their premises from which their assistants will dispense the medications that the doctor himself has prescribed. Make sure that the dispensed medications are checked by your doctor to ensure that they are the ones the doctor had prescribed and that you receive the right dosage instruction. You are the consumer, this is your right!

The better alternative is to ask for a prescription and have your medications dispensed by another health professional - your pharmacist.

With more than 8,000 medications on the market and three billion prescriptions written each year, prescription errors are a top concern of the U.S. health care system. The 1999 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, which estimated that between 44,000 and 98,000 people die in U.S. hospitals each year as a result of medical mistakes, has brought new public scrutiny to the issue of drug errors (1). While some analysts argue that the report's findings are exaggerated, few disagree with the central conclusion: Health care needs better systems to prevent deadly errors.

Your pharmacist complementing your doctor's care is one strategy that can reduce adverse drug events and improve patient care.

(1) From the March 2000 ACP–ASIM Observer by the American College of Physicians–American Society of Internal Medicine

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PS. If you forget any questions you have, be sure to call the doctor back and ask! Your health is too important to ignore. Don’t ever be embarrassed to ask your doctor and your pharmacist anything.

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