July 9, 2014

A Companion at Your Doctor's Appointment May Be Important

Should you have a spouse, a trusted friend, or a patient advocate accompany you to a doctor's appointment? This will vary by the person and the situation. Some spouses do not work well enough together, some don't have a trusted friend, or even a trusted family member. Many cannot afford to pay a patient advocate. What are they to do?

That is part of the reason for saying acompanion. The discussion applies to anyone that could accompany a person to a doctor's appointment. Remember, going to the doctor with someone is a gift.

First, if you are asked, think about what you must do. How do you become the best
companion? You will need to listen, record (please ask first), and ask questions. You will need to ask the person you are going with why you are going. Ask what the person wants to accomplish during the appointment? Don't forget to ask why they want you to accompany him/her?

Next, there are many types of doctor visits. Routine visits, routine physical, unknown issues, new acute issue, or a follow up appointment for an acute issue or a chronic condition.

It is a good idea to prepare for any type of appointment:
#1. Have a list of current medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, and any questions the patient has about them. Make sure for a list that the information is all there and when they are taken. If necessary, bring the medications in their containers to the appointment.

#2. Have a list of all the members of the patient's health team, both medical and non-medical.

#3. Record anything medical or health related happening that has occurred since the last visit with this doctor or clinic.

#4. Record questions that come up during this preparation and seek answers.

At the appointment be an active listener and make sure you understand. Repeat back what you hear. Ask if you can record the session. If possible, use your phone or bring a tape recording machine. Ask for a copy of the doctors notes. If someone brings up HIPAA as a reason for not sharing this information, remind him/her that the person needs this and they have a right to the information. HIPAA mandates the sharing with the person having the appointment. Before leaving, ask the person with the appointment if he/she understands what the doctor has said and if they have any final questions.

As soon as possible after the appointment, go over what happened and what both of you learned. Recall for most people can fade quickly. That is why to discussion needs to take place, recording or not.

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