One of the most important relationships a person living with a chronic illness has is with their healthcare team. But medical appointments are often an under-utilized part of your healthcare and wellness resources. Time constraints, anxiety, and poor communication, among other things, can contribute to a less than satisfying and helpful experience.
In addition, when you live with a chronic illness it’s often hard to remember that problems come, but problems also go. It can be helpful to have data to remind you, when you are struggling with a particular problem, that you may have had this problem before and it did get better.
It can also be important to have data to support you suspicion that a problem is getting worse and may require more attention. Preparing for your appointments becomes especially important. Here are some resources and tips to help you become an active partner with your healthcare team.
Before Your Appointment
- List all your questions Make a list of all the questions you want to ask the healthcare provider. Appointments are time limited so you may not have time to ask all your questions. What is your most pressing need?
- Write down any symptoms you are having What are they, when do they occur, how long have they been going on, how do they affect your life? Include new symptoms even If you are not sure they are MS-related.
- List all medications and supplements List all of your medications, including over-the-counter medications, including over-the-counter medications, supplements, herbs, and vitamins. List any concerns you have, including issues as pregnancy, swallowing problems, difficulty remembering to take medications, or problems with medication administration.
- Bring your MRI results or CD if you had an MRI at another clinic.
- Be sure to sign up for any online patient portal that your clinic might offer. For example, the Rocky Mountain MS Center at UCHealth offers My Health Connection at www.uchealth. org/access-my-health-connection. This portal allows you to email your doctor, view your medical record, request an appointment, receive appointment reminders, and renew or refill prescriptions.
- Plan to arrive 15 minutes prior to your appointment time. This gives you time to check in, fill out any necessary paper work, and avoid the stress of rushing to avoid being late.
During Your Appointment
- Provide any update, changes in status, concerns or worries. What has changed since your last visit? Have you had any emergency room visits, or medical treatment from other providers? Have you experienced any changes in sleep patterns, appetite, weight, or energy level? Are there any major life changes that you have experienced that could impact your health?
- Empower yourself. Take a deep breath, organize your thoughts, and make sure you are given the privacy and comfort you need. It’s hard to feel empowered when you feel vulnerable. If possible, have your conversation when you are in a sitting position and can make eye contact with your healthcare provider.
- Be honest when answering the doctor’s questions. Don’t say what you think he or she wants to hear. Give complete and accurate information and be open about sharing any life events that may be influencing your health. Your interaction with a healthcare provider is a confidential exchange, protected by law.
- Provide some financial background. Don’t be afraid to let your healthcare provider know about current insurance coverage and your ability to pay for medications and treatments. If a particular course of treatment may cause financial difficulty, there may be other alternatives that your provider can suggest.
- Ask questions and take notes. If you don’t ask questions, your provider may assume you understand. Refer to a prepared list of questions, and remember there are no stupid questions. Ask if you don’t understand a recommendation or if instructions aren’t clear. Don’t leave the office feeling confused. Take notes, write down the main points or ask your provider to write them for you. Or use the voice recorder feature on your phone to record what is said, with your provider’s permission.
- Get detailed information about recommended diagnostic tests or procedures recommended Find out why the recommendation was made, what the test or procedure is for, and all the details about scheduling the procedure.
- Ask about alternatives to recommendations, especially if you feel uncertain You should feel comfortable asking about your choices when your healthcare provider makes a treatment recommendation. Be sure you have a complete understanding of your options and the ramifications of each one.
- Get good information about recommended treatments. Visit www.mscenter.org for recorded videos, articles, and other resources that can help answer your specific questions.