I never imagined that ways to prepare for a doctor visit was ever something I would need to be vocal about. Doctors weren’t really a routine part of my life unless it was an annual checkup or physical. It wasn’t until I became cognizant that my experience within the healthcare system was going to be different because of existing in a marginalized body. After several conversations via social media; it dawned on me that many people are unprepared for visits in the same way I once was. So what better way to circulate the lessons I’ve learned than by sharing it.
Knowledge is the gift that keeps on giving.
Document Your Symptoms
Knowing your concerns in depth is really important. Often times we experience something and over time will forget when the moment passes. Make it a habit of documenting your symptoms as they happen so by the time your appointment arrives; you have a list of your concerns and questions.
Get in the habit of not just accepting but asking. In my experience, before I knew to google, research and ask questions; I just accepted that my medical professional knew what they were talking about. I would take meds, experience side effects and just assume that was part of the process.
News flash…it’s not.
Unfortunately, many of us experience “fast food” paced visits. We spend more time in the waiting room and with the medical assistant than we do with the doctor. The physician quickly scans through notes, barely remembers what you were last seen for, spends more time discussing weight loss than your actual ailment. Before you know it you’re being handed yet another prescription and you feel like you’re back at square one.
Make your doctor engage. Ask questions about the meds or testing they’re suggesting. Ask why, how it will benefit the overall picture of your health short and long term. If you feel uncomfortable with something; express that clearly. If you want a different diagnostic test than what they may suggest; ask for it. If they seem resistant or adamant about ignoring your concerns or needs; tell them you want it documented in your chart that they are refusing to accommodate your request. This holds them legally responsible and more likely to concede albeit begrudgingly.
Follow Up in Writing
Following up is a great way to cover and protect yourself. I can’t speak for anyone else; but there are plenty of times when I read my summary visit report that there were chunks of information that have conveniently been left out for whatever the reason. Now I follow up via the patient portal (download a copy for myself) and just confirm what has been discussed during my visit. I’m pretty certain my doctor’s don’t care and may not even read it. However, should I ever need to get litigious with it, I plan to be thorough in the documentation I have.
The Wrap Up
It’s rather unfortunate that some of us may have to work harder at our doctor patient relationships for whatever the reason. It could be that your physician is lazy, or you are a victim of bias due to existing in a marginalized body. However, it’s better to know how and to do it because no one will advocate harder for your health or your care than YOU. Take care of yourself.
Until Next Time,