Q. I've recently moved to town and, for the first time since I was a youngster, need a new doctor. What should I take when I go for the first office visit? -- Penny Patient
A. Dear Ms. Patient: Welcome to the Chattanooga area; it's a great place to live. Most of us have been in your shoes at one time or another and it's an easy dilemma to fix. The first thing to do is to research to find the best provider available before you make that first appointment. Check that this person is in good standing with state medical boards and is board certified. Next, make an appointment for an interview. Seriously, this is a great idea. Just because your friend recommended this person doesn't mean you'll like him. Is the office chaotic or run smoothly? How about the staff? Are they courteous and responsive? Did you wait a long time or were you seen promptly? All of these say something about a future relationship between you and this very important role in your life and health.
Obviously, you'll carry with you a copy of all your medications and some docs want to see all your meds (I carry a small list of drugs and dosages for all medical treatments in my billfold) and a list of questions to ask Dr. Debra. Remember, you want to ensure she understands you're not just a passive petunia so set appropriate expectations to keep open the lines of communication. Further, to expedite the office visit and let the doc know you're a wise patient, here's a list of necessary "to do's:"
• Make sure the provider's office has received all your medical records from the previous applicable physicians.
• Ask and confirm that you're allotted enough time to go over your ails and records.
• Have a copy of your DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) if you wish one, and a list of the folks with medical Power of Attorney.
• If you'll need to see a specialist for further handling or require tests, ask Doc to call you with any normal and (especially) abnormal results.
• Make notes about what the doctor says about diagnoses and treatment plans. Be sure you understand everything before he or she leaves the room.
Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears every Saturday. Email her at consumer watch@timesfree press.com.