By: Michael R. Lewis, MD
When you come to the doctor, it is important that we have information. Lots of it! With the accurate and correct information your doctor will be able to help meet your personal health goals. Below you will find a checklist of the top 10 most important things to bring to your primary care physician (PCP) at each visit, especially your initial, “meet the doc” visit. I hope you find this list helpful.
- Your punctuality!
Come early especially if you are establishing with a new practice. There will most likely be paperwork to be filled out which can take some time – show up 30 minutes early to your first appointment. Even though doctors can run behind, your appointment time is YOUR appointment time, so try to come 10 minutes early for established patients and 30 minutes early for new patients. It will help us out because once in a while we run right on-time.
- Medical insurance card and ID
Bringing your medical insurance card or at least a photocopy of it will start the day/visit off on the right foot. Without the card, you usually can be seen, but there will be delays, as the billing office will need to be called to ensure you have coverage. Also, if you want a special immunization (such as the shingles vaccine), please call your insurance ahead of time to ensure it is covered. We would be disappointed for you to get billed for services because we assume you have the proper coverage.
- Immunization record, either written or verbal
I know what you are thinking! I haven’t seen my immunization card since I was in junior high school. I hear you. You don’t need all of your immunization history, but you should be able to tell us when your last tetanus/whooping cough shot was or if you have ever had the pneumonia or shingles vaccine. If you really don’t know, your doc may offer you a booster or updated immunization if recommended. Immunizations are part of your preventive health so this information helps keep us on target.
- Medical/Surgical history/Allergies
A written medical and surgical history will help. Even if you had your tonsils or appendix out at 6 years old, this will help tremendously. You can imagine if someone comes in with abdominal pain, it would be nice to know there isn’t a gall bladder or appendix to worry about. Allergies to food and/or drugs are always helpful to put in your chart. Side effects are different from allergies. Nausea isn’t an allergy – it’s an intolerance – but still an important piece of data. Still, let us know so we can update your chart so we can make better choices for you if you need medications.
- Prescriptions, Vitamins and Alternative therapies
Please, bring your medication in. I would rather see the bottles initially, update your med-list then print out a new list for you to bring to future appointments. This will ensure accuracy of directions as well as the medications. Vitamins and supplements are very important as well. Some of the alternative regimens can interfere with your current prescriptions. Some natural remedies such as Saw Palmetto used for prostate health, can underestimate your PSA (prostate blood work) – basically it would give us an inaccurate number. Even supplements can cause liver damage amongst other things. Make sure you let your doctor know if you are taking any meds other than what was prescribed.
- Personal records:
If you are a diabetic, keep your own blood pressure readings or maintain a food journal or all of the above, bring all this info to your visit along with your monitor or machine. The sugar monitors for diabetes usually stores data on them which we can access if you don’t keep paper records. If you check your blood pressure at home, bring your machine in so we can ensure that your readings match ours – this will help us determine how accurate your home readings are. Food journals are great to have in the office for review especially if you are trying to lose weight, can’t figure out why your blood sugars are the way they are or if you have an allergy/food reaction but not sure to what. A food journal can really help. TIP: If you are scheduling a visit and want a food journal reviewed, make an appointment especially for this as it takes time to go through the nuances.
- Past records – especially if you have old diagnostic tests
This is pretty self-explanatory. Bring your records from past doctors if you are establishing with a new one. If you don’t have them, make a request from your new doctor. You will have to sign a release of information and your new doc will get the records. Important information in your medical record is specialist visits and diagnostic tests (colonoscopy, radiology including X-Ray, MRI and CT scans, blood work) – you get my drift.
- List of major concerns
Make a list of your concerns. However, be mindful that time is limited in most cases so multiple visits may be necessary to address all of them. I had a patient bring me in a 38 line list of medical problems, when I reviewed the list I was able to narrow the complaints down to 5 major issues. Nonetheless, be thorough and patient. Try to address your most concerning complaints first. For example, don’t save chest pain for last, after we have talked about knee pain, hair loss, and fungus on the toe nails. They are all important, but it’s important to talk about the most concerning issues first – even if you are scared.
- An advocate if you have high concerns
Bring a trustworthy partner. Sometimes a medical advocate will be the best thing you can have in your armamentarium, i.e.: tool box (I just like that word!). Your advocate may ask questions that you may have forgotten on your behalf or remind you of certain issues or symptoms. They may write down information to remind you for later – especially if you get sad news from the doc. It’s classic that when you are given bad news, the brain “shuts off” and stops listening to the details. This is where your advocate will help and journal the details.
- A willingness to heal with an open mind
Bring your authenticity, patience, goals and open-mindedness. “I just want to feel better.” “I want to be able to play basketball.” “I just want to go to Disneyland with my grandchildren.” “I don’t want to feel tired anymore.” Having a goal will help both you and the doc know the direction to go. At times, there will need to be more testing to determine the underlying cause of the problem. Please be patient and know that we are trying to be thorough and not miss something that is less obvious. Your job is to ask questions – “Is this test necessary?” “Are there any other tests?” “What do we do if this test is negative/positive?”
I hope this list will help you organize your thoughts, and lead to a more productive medical visit with your provider. Remember, this is a relationship, and you may need to go on different dates until you find the right match!
For 3, 4 and 5 above – You can fill out the card below online and print it for your wallet at:
Best of health,