Category: Health

7 Tips to Get the Most from Your Doctor Visit

by Rich Sagall, MD

You have an appointment to see your doctor about a health issue. It may be a new problem, a chronic issue, or an acute illness. No matter the reason, you are ready for a 10-minute visit filled with quick questions, a prescription or two, and some instructions. If you are lucky, some of your questions will be answered and you may remember a portion of what your doctor tells you.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There are steps you can take to have a more satisfying and productive visit. You may not be able to do all of these at every visit and some may make you feel a little uncomfortable, but they are worth trying.

  1. Expectations – Before scheduling an appointment, think about why you want to see the doctor and what you hope to get from the visit. For example, if you are seeing the doctor for new back pain, are you looking for an x-ray, do you want strong pain medicine or do you want reassurance it’s nothing serious? At some point you need to tell the doctor what you want. That’s not to say you will get it, but being forthright makes it easier for everyone.
  2. Take a friend or family member – Many studies have shown that patients remember little of what doctors tell them during a visit, and doctors generally overestimate how much patients remember. A second person in the room, someone who is not experiencing the stress of being a patient, can better remember what occurs and help you better follow the doctor’s instructions. Remember – this person may hear very personal and potentially embarrassing things about you.
  3. Bring a list of questions – Actually writing down what you want to ask the doctor serves many purposes and helps to make the visit more productive. First, it forces you to really think about what you want to learn and state it succinctly. Second, it helps your doctor know what you want to learn. Bring an extra copy of the questions and give it to your doctor. Third, the list provides a place for you (or your companion) to write down answers. This will help you better remember what transpired.
  4. Have a good history – Doctors depend heavily on the history of a problem to make the diagnosis. This has to come from you. Keeping a symptom diary is a great way to quantify problems. For example, if you are being seen for headaches, keep a diary for a few weeks. Enter the dates and times you have headaches, how long each headache lasts, what the headaches are like, what you are doing when the headache occurs, what helps lessen the pain and what doesn’t, etc. You get the idea. This information will help your doctor better understand what you are experiencing.
  5. Ask about tests – It’s easy to order tests and doctors tend to do it a lot. Many patients expect to have them. Before having any tests performed, you should ask, “How will the test results affect my treatment?” You’d be surprised how often the answer is it won’t. If the results won’t change anything, then a good question is why do the test?
  6. Get your test results – It’s important for you to receive a copy of every test result. Never accept the “no news is good news” response. No news may mean all is fine, but it can also mean many other things. Perhaps the doctor never received the results and didn’t know it. Perhaps the results came back and were filed without the doctor reviewing the results. Perhaps the doctor misread the results. Or perhaps the doctor saw an abnormal result, but the office staff forgot to call you. You have a legal right to demand the lab send you results, and you have a right to all results in your medical file.
  7. Ask for a copy of the doctor’s notes – You have a right to the contents of your medical record. The doctor may “own the paper”, but the information is yours. You want to make sure the doctor got it right and, perhaps more important, recording what happened correctly. Depending on your state, the doctor may be able to impose a reasonable charge, but it’s well worth it.You should understand what is recorded. If you don’t understand something, either give the doctor a call or ask at your next visit.Once something is recorded, it’s next to impossible to change or correct it. Doctors are told to never go back and change what’s in a patient’s record. It looks back if there’s ever a legal issue. However, doctors can and do include an addendum if something in the record is entered incorrectly. If you find a mistake or disagree with a statement, you should send your complaint in writing to your doctor. Ask that your statement become part of the official record.

I know some physicians will not agree with some of the above – or even all of it. When I was in practice, I followed many of these steps and encouraged my patients to bring lists, get copies of results, and become active participants in their healthcare. I encourage you to do the same.

Rich Sagall, MD, a retired family physician, is the president and founder of NeedyMeds, a national non-profit that has information on programs that help people in medical need. He is aslso the

Read more

All About the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program

Healthcare related costs are a major problem for many Americans who are uninsured and underinsured, even if they are relatively healthy. For people with a serious medical condition these financial problems can be even worse. One diagnosis that finds many patients in an expensive position is HIV/AIDS. A diagnosis of HIV or AIDS comes with a hefty price tag, according to study on NBC news, “An American diagnosed with the AIDS virus can expect to live for about 24 years on average, and the cost of health care over those two-plus decades is more than $600,000, new research indicates… The researchers estimated the monthly cost of care at $2,100, with about two-thirds of that spent on medications.” For patients without insurance these costs are extremely daunting. Luckily, there is a program to help uninsured and underinsured AIDS patients – the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, formerly known as the Ryan White CARE (Comprehensive AIDS Resource Emergency) Act.

Who was Ryan White?

Read more

All About Free and Low Cost Clinics

One of the most popular sections of the NeedyMeds website is our listing of Free, Low-Cost, and Sliding-Scale clinics. As health care has become more and more expensive, the need for low-cost health care has increased. Many people living in more rural parts of the country have a very limited number of options to see a doctor, and depending on their insurance status the number of available “in-network” doctors is even lower. Many people do not regularly see their doctor, only seeking help when a more serious condition arises. It can be a scary situation to be uninsured and have an unforeseen medical problem come up.

Free, Low-Cost, or Sliding Scale?

We list three different types of clinics on NeedyMeds.org. The first are free clinics which are of no cost to the patient (self explanatory). The second are low-cost clinics which usually have a low flat-fee for all patients or types of visit. The third are sliding-scale clinics. The price for these clinics is based on the patient’s ability to pay, and is usually derived from their income and family size as it relates to the federal poverty level.

What

Read more

IDEA Part C – Infants and Toddlers with Developmental Delays

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (also known as IDEA) is a federal program focused on providing financial aid for special education for children with disabilities. IDEA builds upon the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, which “intended to support states and localities in protecting the rights of, meeting the individual needs of, and improving the results for infants, toddlers, children and youths with disabilities and their families. IDEA takes things a step further and “requires that schools provide special education services to eligible students as outlined in a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). IDEA also provides very specific requirements to guarantee a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment (LRE). FAPE and LRE are the protected rights of every eligible child, in all 50 states and U.S. Territories.” In short, the law guarantees that all children with disabilities have access to personalized and quality education.

What about Part C? Who Does it Serve?

In

Read more

5 Ways to Find Help with Your Diabetes Costs

Treatment and other diabetes-related costs can be expensive.   According to the American Diabetes Association the total costs of diagnosed diabetes was  $245 billion in 2012, with $176 billion in direct medical costs.  “People with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of about $13,700 per year, of which about $7,900 is attributed to diabetes. People with diagnosed diabetes, on average, have medical expenditures approximately 2.3 times higher than what expenditures would be in the absence of diabetes.”

Here are 5 ways available to find help with these costs on the NeedyMeds website.

1.     Apply for free or reduced prescription medications through a Patient Assistance Program (PAP).
How they work:

→ PAPs are run by pharmaceutical companies and provide free or discounted medicines to those who qualify.

→ Eligibility and application requirements vary from program to program, usually based on income and insurance.

How to find them:

→ To find out if there’s a PAP available for your medication, click on the Brand Name Drugs or Generic Name Drugs links and look up your medication alphabetically.

→ If you do find your medication, click on it and you will be able to look over any assistance programs that are available for that medication.

How to get enrolled:

→ Most PAPs require that you fill out an application,

Read more

About Us

Welcome to the NeedyMeds Voice! We look forward to presenting you with timely, provocative pieces on healthcare reform, patient advocacy, medication and healthcare access, and other health-related news. Our goals are to educate, enlighten, and elucidate; together, we will try to make sense of the myriad and ongoing healthcare-related changes in the U.S. today.