I’ve reached a point in life where at least one medical appointment is listed nearly every week on the family calendar hanging on the side of the refrigerator; these have become focal points on my reclusive social calendar.

I’d prefer to cut back on them, but that doesn’t appear to be a realistic immediate possibility, so I’ve learned to look forward to most of them, and I’ve learned to maximize the treatment I receive. I’ll share a few tips with you that may enhance your medical experiences as well.

I’m aware of the challenge for many folks about getting motivated to show up at a medical appointment. It’s similar to psyching up for an extended stay at a motel rated in the top 10 nationwide, or having a painful dental procedure. Nonetheless, for many seniors, visiting doctors on a regular basis becomes a routine occurrence, and I, as a member of this growing faction, have learned to make the best of it. To do this, I devised a plan allowing me to maximize my actual face time with the doctors. Equally important, I’ll show you how to build a positive, comfortable rapport with your health care providers in case you need to call one of them in the middle of the night for an emergency and expect to receive a response within a few minutes.

Before I formulated and implemented this plan, there wasn’t a reasonable chance of me getting a return phone call from the actual doctor or from the doctor’s office until some time the following day, if at all. But that changed once I executed my plan, and here are some suggestions that you can use to get similar results. By the way, I gathered this information by actually talking with several of my doctors and soliciting their suggestions for enhancing patient / doctor relationships.

Take a “current medical status” sheet with you every time you visit a doctor. Your one page document lists, 1) current medications including actual daily dosages, 2) a summary of your present medical condition, 3) a clear and succinct description of the reason for your visit, 4) any recent treatment or procedure provided by another doctor, 5) any prescription requiring a refill, and 6) additional concerns or requests you may have such as interest in obtaining referrals to other medical specialists.

If this sounds like a lot of work it, really isn’t. Once you put your first list together, it’s simply a matter of updating the information prior to each office visit to any doctor. For ease of use and tracking purposes I have a folder for each of my doctors containing one of these sheets, and I do everything on my computer and print it the evening before a medical appointment or procedure.

And I take an abbreviated version along with me to all medical test sites (e.g., laboratories for blood draws or specialty facilities performing MRIs, CT scans, X-rays). The techs at these facilities aren’t necessarily interested in learning all about your medical issues, but making them aware of your current medications has proven beneficial on a number of occasions because some of the procedures involved dyes injected into the bloodstream, and not all of them played well with all prescription medications — some have potentially serious interactions.

Medical care shouldn’t be a game of “guess what’s wrong with me” played with your doctor; you’ll lose more often than not, or at best prolong the process of being properly diagnosed and treated. And being an intentionally difficult patient isn’t in your best interest either. Making it as easy as possible for your doctor to deal with you and understand what’s bothering you should be commonplace, but that’s not what I heard from the doctors I talked with. Helping your doctor is also helping you.

Finally, it’s okay to occasionally follow up after a medical visit or procedure with a letter, FAX or e-mail thanking the doctor and staff for their care. Most of the time we’re there complaining about something, so offering a bit of positive news goes a long way in forming a solid, amenable bond with your health care providers. Think of them as your dream team.


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