Five Ways to Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Doctor
#RealLifeRx: Insight from Chief Medical Officer, Sharon Kiely
Sharon C. Kiely, MD, Senior Vice President, Medical Affairs & Chief Medical Officer
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Help me help you to understand the healthcare landscape.
Recently someone asked me if it was important to have a primary care physician – or “PCP”- and I answered, “absolutely, yes.” It is essential to your health. In my career in primary care, I have been honored and humbled by the trust that patients and their families give me as “their doctor.” What I liked most was developing long-term relationships with them. This “partnership” helped me to help them better. I was able to recognize any small change in their physical examination, lab results, electrocardiogram or blood pressure more easily because I knew them so well and they trusted me more as well. My specialist colleagues also want you to have a PCP to coordinate all of your care.
So how do you find a PCP and “partner” with them to really improve your health together? Here are 5 things I recommend.
1. Ask yourself, “What’s important to me?”
You want to find a doctor who is well trained and is associated with a hospital that you want to use if you ever need it. This includes emergency care. This is important because in order to become a medical staff member–and stay there- a physician needs to meet standards that the hospital has set. In the case of Stamford Health, we require that the doctor is board certified in their field.
2. Next, think about your lifestyle, transportation needs and other personal things.
If having a doctor close to home fits better with your personal schedule, then look for doctors nearby. Do you need morning, weekend and evening hours so you don’t have to miss work to see the doctor? If you prefer a physician with interests in preventive care, women’s care or other aspects that are important to you, there are some ways to investigate that before your appointment. Browse on websites such as ZocDoc, RateMDs, Healthgrades and Vitals. Feel free to call the doctor’s office and connect with the office manager or a nurse to see if your interest is an interest of the doctor’s.
3. Third, think about what you’d like to get out of the visit.
Are you interested in your general state of health or do you have specific concerns? Make sure that you inform the staff when you make the appointment. Perhaps you need a work physical or blood tests and you have forms that need to be completed. Let the office know this and send the forms in advance if possible.
4. Now you can prepare for your first visit.
There are some details the doctor will ask you about, so be prepared to provide some basic information. This includes your list of medications, vitamins and supplements as well as your allergies to medications and other triggers like ragweed, specific foods and exactly how you react to them. Bring a list of other tests, surgeries and hospitalizations, too. Next, your unique family history of illness is very important to personalize your health plan. Think about relatives close to you – mother, father, sisters and brothers. Now is the time to ask your family what “runs in the family.” It’s hard to remember all of this, so thinking about it ahead of time will help you to be more complete in your answers.
5. Finally, consider going electronic.
It is very hard to remember everything a doctor discusses with you on a visit, especially when it comes to lab tests and other results. So doctors’ offices and hospitals have set up patient portals so that you can see and follow your personal results at home. Taking a look at the portal can also help you to prepare for your next visit. Enrolling in a patient portal in many cases will also let you review medications, request and cancel appointments, and much more. If you don’t have a computer or a way to get onto the portal, you can ask for a copy of your results.
A Word from Dr. Kiely:
It’s important to remember that the healthcare landscape is always subject to change, and with change, more information emerges. Stay on top of this information and as you do so, let me know if I can help.
About Dr. Kiely
Sharon Cabrina Kiely, MD, has over 30 years of experience caring for patients. She is board certified in Internal Medicine and has spent her career as a leader in medicine in hospitals, the classroom and administrative positions. Read more...