How to Become a Better Patient

Communication between the patient and the doctor is crucial to your health and well-being.  The more information you can provide your doctor, the better he\she can help you lead a healthy lifestyle.

Write down what you want to discuss at the time of your office visit.  This may seem simplistic but so many times patients are unable to express themselves and not able to tell the doctor what are their problems. Start writing down the issues that you would like to discuss a few days before your appointment.  When the doctor enters the exam room, after the few seconds of perfunctory remarks, give the list of questions to your doctor or read it to the doctor.

Another suggestion for becoming a good patient is to always obtain copies of your medical records.  Keep a file of your test results, your current medications, your immunizations, your allergies, and a list of your medical conditions.  Every time you visit the doctor and have blood work or x-rays, you should request copies for your own records.

Arrange to have your tests performed several weeks prior to your scheduled office visit. Now when you meet with the doctor, he\she can analyze the data at the time of your visit and make the appropriate recommendations.  Failure to do so means you will meet with the doctor, then obtain your tests, and wait for weeks to hear from the doctor to review the results on the phone or using E-mail.

It is also helpful for older patients to bring a family member with them at the time of their office visit to help communicate various health issues with the doctor.   The family member can also write down the doctor’s recommendations.

If you really want to be a good patient, arrive 15 minutes before your appointment, complete your forms and questionnaires, and relax and enjoy the experience.

Finally, learn as much as you can about your illness or medical condition.  There are hundreds of websites that you can visit to find out about your medical problems.  Your physician can be a good resource for credible websites and educational material.

Bottom line:  It is not easy to be a good patient.  No one likes to go to the doctor but following a few of these suggestions will make you a better patient, will enhance your communication with your doctor, and will improve your health and well-being.

Dr. Neil Baum is a urologist at Touro Infirmary and can be reached at his website, www.neilbaum.com, or at his office, (504) 891-8454.

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