Health Care Strategies

How to protect yourself when you go to the doctor: Provide good information, maximize your 15 minutes and keep your own records.

According to the American Society of Internal Medicine, 70 percent of a correct diagnosis depends solely on what the patient tells the provider. Giving providers as much information as possible about your health can help them make faster, more accurate decisions about your condition and treatment.

If providers don’t ask, tell them things about your disability they should know. Give them relevant information about how your disability affects your health care. (If you prefer that certain information not go beyond your provider, request that it not be written down. Once information becomes a part of your medical records, it may become available to insurance companies and others.)

A provider has limited time. Become an effective self-reporter. For example:

Poor report: “I have a pain that bothers me sometimes, what do you think it is?”

Better report: “I get a stabbing pain on the left side of my right knee when I walk fast. What do you think that means?”

Connecting your providers with each other is also important so they can easily contact each other, if or when necessary. This may help you get the best possible advice and treatment.

Maximize your 15 minutes

Richard Frankel found that on average physicians gave patients only 18 seconds to describe their medical complaint before interrupting. As a result, doctors heard only some of the symptoms and may have missed vital clues.

Seventy-five percent of all office visits occur in under 15 minutes. Here are some strategies to consider in making the best use of very limited time:

— ask for an appointment when the provider is less likely to be rushed.

— be clear about your priorities and what you want to discuss by creating a questions and concerns list, placing the most important items first.

— mail, fax or e-mail, a copy of the questions and concerns list to the provider before the visit or give a copy to the receptionist when you arrive.

Obtain Copies of Your Medical Records

Obtaining and reading your medical records will help you become a more involved and informed health care consumer, more attentive to your health and more in control of your own care.

Providers and facilities are permitted to and often do charge you for copies of your records. The cost to you is well worth it. If you have had long hospitalizations or are aware that copies of your medical records could fill volumes, then consider asking only for summaries.

Keep complete and thorough records of your health history, the onset of conditions and/or disability, surgeries, etc. in your medical records file. Give copies to a new or potentially uniformed or under-informed provider or present summaries of this information when visiting new providers.

Organize information by condition.

Gather information on medications, including nutritional supplements, vitamins, herbs and minerals. If you take medication that cannot be interrupted without serious consequences, make sure this is stated clearly and include: prescriptions; dosage; times taken when first prescribed and how long you have been on the drug.

Surgeries: include dates.

Allergies and Sensitivities: Indicate any allergies and sensitivities.

Record of Tests and Shots: include dates.

Be aware of your personal baseline for existing conditions such as headaches, abdominal pain, patterns for bowel and bladder function and the like. Track changes.

Once you have organized your information, consider storing a copy with a trusted friend or in a safe deposit box.

Health Care Resources

Memory Minder Personal Health Journal, PO Box 23108, Eugene, OR 97402-0425, tel: (541) 342-2300, fax: (541) 342-6000 Take control of your health. Discover patterns, give your doctor better feedback. Memory Minder is a spiral-bound journal for people who want to track daily health information such as diet, mood, weight, sugar level,medication and physical conditioning.

HealthMinder, 8000 E. Prentice, Suite B-13, Englewood, CO 80111, tel & fax: (303) 220-7449

HealthMinder is a looseleaf notebook for sections and forms for recording personal health information. Separate HealthMinder available for children.

Be a Savvy Health Care Consumer, Your Life May Depend on It! By June Isaacson Kailes, 6201 Ocean Front Walk, Suite 2, Playa del Rey, California 90293-7556, tel: (310) 821-7080, fax: (310) 827-0269, email: