Talk to the doc: Making the most out of appointments

Talk to the doc: Making the most out of appointments

It used to be that a patient visited their healthcare provider and were told their diagnosis, what course of action was needed, and what prescriptions to take. That’s not happening any longer. Today, patients (or their caregivers) are expected to be active participants in the conversation, notes Pierce County Aging and Disability Resources, which is hosting public discussions on that subject this month.

“Talking With Your Doctor,” scheduled for three sessions in Tacoma and Gig Harbor, is an opportunity to learn about the philosophy guiding the medical community,  expectations that providers have for their patients, and how preparing for medical appointments is more important than ever. 

The presentations, which are free, will be held twice on Jan. 13 — at 12:10 p.m. at the Pierce County Annex in Tacoma (2401 S. 35th St.) and at 6:30 p.m. Gig Harbor branch of Pierce County Library System (4424 Point Fosdick Road) – and once on Jan. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Library System’s Parkland-Spanaway branch (13718 Pacific Ave.).

Attendees will receive information and resources to help them make the most of their healthcare visits, including a preparation form, a medication tracker, a “File of Life,” question sheets, and a symptom guide. The information is from the National Institute on Aging, a federal agency that is part of the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Most clinicians are under a significant time crunch,” said Aaron Van Valkenburg, manager of Aging and Disability Resources, a Pierce County government program. “They can only spend a limited amount of time with each patient. If a patient hasn’t prepared adequately for their visit, it could be time wasted for everyone. Knowing exactly how to describe symptoms and preparing with questions makes a world of difference.”

Van Valkenburg said it’s often recommended for patients to have a second person with them at an appointment, as so much happens so quickly that one person can miss important parts of the conversation. Things to do and not do, things to eat and not eat, prescriptions to take and not take – all this can be confusing, misunderstood or misinterpreted after the fact, he noted.

Additional information about the presentations is available from Aging and Disability Resources at 253-798-4600. In case of inclement weather, attendees can learn about possible postponements by calling 253-798-8787.