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.
I agree with your husband. It’s so frustrating when you don’t get value out of a Doctor’s visit. I keep a checklist for what I need to do before, during, and after each Doctor visit on hand so that I don’t forget. I also use a special Medical Organizing System that has pocket dividers for each category and sheet protectors in it for each Doctor. ANYTHING I need to review (or remember) for that Doctor goes into a sheet protector. Then, before each visit, I review ALL materials 3-5 days in advance (to give me enough time to resolve issues I find in preparing for the visit). I’ll even call the Doctor’s office to review why I’m coming and confirm they are ready on their end. This has been a really effective process for me.
Excellent tips Bonnie. Thanks for contributing.
On point as always Anne! I think this all ties into health literacy and helping patients be ” better ” patients. As I go with my elders to appointments, I find that you only get 5-10 min with a doc and most of that they will spend on social chit chat and say everything is fine!
Agree Judy, thus the point of US/the patient being prepared so we can ‘cut the chit chat and answer these questions’. Going to the doctors appointment for many is a social visit. We have to change that mindset as the time with your doctor is limited – so we need to make the most of those precious moments.
Great topic, Anne,
I have tried with family members to encourage them to be their own case managers and obtain all lab results ahead of visits and keep copies of reports. Sometimes, there are referrals made to other care providers and I have learned from experience, that even in the same health care system (such as St Vincent’s like mine), the reports are not always in the patient’s portals. If we can produce copies of the needed reports it saves time, money and care. I know it is old fashioned to keep paper copies of labs and operative reports or consultation, but I have found it very helpful and will continue to do so.
Your topics are so important to share with your readers – both as individuals and advocates assisting them.
Excellent points Bonnie – re: being prepared- agree with checking with medical provider prior to your appointment to confirm the purpose of the visit and if the provider has all the reports in hand.
Even if I get a text or email reminder of the appointment, I still try and call the day of to make sure the provider is available and if the staff can let you know if they are running on time. Recently a colleague twice, had an appointment with Provider A and then when they arrived was told Provider B would see her. She declined both times to see Provider B and went elsewhere.
All above is true and heart-wrenching.
However, MDs do not always take into consideration the fact there are at least 2 generations in our population who are not computer literate, all do not have computers, and how does the person with an average intellect even understand all the medical jargon in patient portals?
Everyone is not fortunate to have an experienced case manager or patient advocate and are left in the dark when it comes to comprehending what all is in the patient portal.
Some MDs are so overwhelmed with work and reports, do not have a nurse practitioner or other trained medical employee who can take time to explain in plain English, test results, what they mean and their implications.
When will we ever get back to ALL MDs having their best interest ay hand. Many do; many do not. I know that I help some people I know with some comprehension, telling the person it is imperative he/she TELLS/ASKS the MD to explain the patient’s status in simple English, so the person comprehends.
Personally, when I see a clinician for the 1st time, I have never had a personal, or client’s MD, refuse to speak/explain in simple English to me/us, for the sake of comprehension. When the practitioner/clinician sees I am a RN, they immediately ASSUME I am well versed in the medical issue. I do demand, politely, to have explanations to me and the patient and NO clinician has ever refused me, or a client, explanations in simple English.
All the comments are very appropriate and of great value. I am a patient and find I must incorporate many of the aforementioned strategies into my own care–I must depend on myself and be prepared for the visit. However I am frustrated by the lack of visit preparation by the doctors. I find myself providing information that is clearly noted in my record. I have to wonder how much preparation they have done for me, often I am disappointed. Is this because doctors are on the clock now more than ever? I think this contributes to some of the lack of preparedness that I see. Care Management has become more important than ever before.