By Emily Carroll
I am what I consider to be, a “chronic mover.” My moving began back in 2006 when I started college and had to move my things at the beginning and end of each school year. Now, I am a military wife and have moved four times in six years; hence, a “chronic mover.” Moving is fun and exciting, I have been able to engulf myself in the local cultures of the United States and meet every type of personality that exists in this great country. I have become accustomed to using the moving companies, adapting to new homes, learning new roads, areas to avoid, areas to check out; however, the only thing I absolutely cannot get use to is having to switch my specialists.
As the years go on, my history gets longer, my symptoms become sagas and the blank stares become countless. In order to get myself through these excruciating experiences I now have some tips I set for myself and recommend to my friends who want my opinion.
- Request paper records and CDs of all of your past lab tests, doctor notes and images.
Yes, it is going to be a pain to fill out the Record Releases again, some even make you type up a personal letter requesting these records. It is worth the time (and sometimes money) to have them on you at every appointment. You never know when a test result will go “missing” or you will suddenly want a second opinion. Remember to place these in separate binders labeled by the various specialty.
- Write down all of the medications you have ever been on. The good the bad and the allergic reactions!
That will take forever! That is very true, it will take some time to go through records or mentally relive the past treatment to scribble down every medication and lab test and imaging service you have tried. Each new doctor will ask if you have ever been on (insert name here) and it makes your appointments much more efficient and treatments more effective when you can quickly refer to your list and eliminate that option.
- Practice telling your medical storyline before going into each new patient appointment.
As the years go on and your history becomes longer, it is easy for doctors to form what I refer to as “eye glaze” while listening to my history. That is when you are only two years into your medical history and the doctor has stopped typing notes and stares at you with a blank facial expression. I have found practicing the key symptoms and treatment highlights for each specialty has helped to really focus in on what issues concern them. As the appointments progress, they will most likely ask questions that unveil other problems that were not mentioned, but have now become important.
- Be brave! Explain what type of relationship you want with your doctor.
This piece of advice takes some practice and can be an intimidating thought, especially if you manage to meet a doctor when they are having a bad day or they are not very personable. After explaining my history I always try to explain how I like to understand my diseases beyond Laymen’s terms, be involved in my treatment decisions and get to the root cause, not simply cover up my symptoms with prescriptions. This trick has helped me weed out physicians who do not share a similar viewpoint on patient care and get me to a better match.
- Know what you want to achieve and remember to be motivated enough to educate yourself on what is going on in your body.
Lastly, do not forget that you are your biggest fan and greatest ambassador in terms of your health and wellbeing. There may be provider complications or lack of treatment options at times; however, at the end of the day we have access to immense amounts of information online. No, I am not a fan of self-diagnosing because I believe one person does not hold the key to the world and medical school exists for a good reason. Instead, if your doctor does not answer every question you have, go home and research your disease or treatment options they mentioned from the top down and call them later on or bring those issues up at the next appointment. What causes this disease on a biological level? How does this medicine work? What are the side effects? What is the mechanism of action? What research has been done and what were the outcomes?
Educating yourself can be the secret tool that gets you out of a bad provider relationship to a doctor who has the specialty knowledge you want and your body needs.