Today, my husband went to see his primary care doctor for a follow-up for tests he had done two weeks ago. When the doctor walked in the room, he asked, “why are you’re here?” My husband replied that he was there to follow up on the lab and ultrasound you ordered. I came today to get the results as I thought you would want to review them with me. “Oh right,” said the doctor….” let me see if we have the results.” He looked through the computer and said they are not in the chart. The doctor said, “I will ask the staff to gather the results, but it may take a little while, so I will call you once I have them to review. My husband asked the doctor a few more questions and then we left. As we drove home, he said he was frustrated. He said he was anxious to know the results of the tests and felt that the appointment was a waste of time.

We both learned a good lesson that we can not assume the staff would make sure the results of my husband’s test would be in the system and as a result, it is essential to do our homework when we go to a doctor’s appointment. I have to make a confession here….I was the one who made the appointment for my husband. I should have asked if the results were back from the various providers. This way, the staff could have checked to see if the results of the tests that they ordered were back and if they were not back, they could have called for them.

As a nurse advocate, I would never go to a follow-up appointment with a patient unless I check to make sure any diagnostic tests and consults were sent to the doctor in time for the appointment. Why did I not use the same process for my husband’s visit? Why did I assume this office would be more efficient than any other doctor’s office I visit with my clients?  As they say – Don’t Assume!

Today as the shift of risk moves more and more to the patient, they are expected to take more responsibility in their health and healthcare.

If we want to make sure our appointments are efficient, then it is up to us to check to see if the test results were sent to the doctor to review. Don’t leave it up to the office staff – do it yourself – take responsibility for your care.

Another way to be prepared for your doctor’s appointment is to look in your patient portal. Today, doctors and hospitals are required to have a way to provide access and to communicate with their patients and provide results of diagnostic tests, progress notes, consultation reports, and other information that doctors use to coordinate care.

Checking your patient portal is a tool we can all use to stay up to date and coordinate our care. If you are not using your patient portal or not sure if your doctors’ office has a portal, ask the office staff about it. Usually, the front office staff will send you a link to join the portal. Once in, you can go in and view past office visit notes and any tests you had and even look up your bills to make sure you are up to date on outstanding invoices. In addition, you can communicate with your doctors and make appointments all through the patient portal.

In addition to viewing the information in your portal, you can print off tests and share with the information other physicians whom you see so they have your most up-to-date information on your care. Unfortunately, there is still no coordinated system that links all providers together, so if you see five doctors, you might have five portals if they are not in the same organization. Progress is being made on a coordinated ‘information highway’ to share information efficiently, but don’t let this hold you back.

As a nurse advocate, I am starting to put in my HIPAA consent form asking clients to give me permission to access their patient portals. This will make my work more efficient.

Being prepared is integral to all aspects of our lives.  So we need to take the same approach with our medical care! Remember, YOU are the only constant in YOUR care, so YOU need to take the lead to make sure your care is coordinated.

If you have found a way to coordinate your care, please share in the comment section to help us learn together!

Thanks, and have a good week.

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