By Patsy Stahl
Thankfully, medical providers care for us, but we need to be responsible, equal team members, helping our providers help us. We should:
- Updateour medicine cabinet, including commonly used over-the-counter medications.
- Stay completely vaccinated, boosted, and safe from viruses, if possible. Keep our weight controlled, as added weight can hamper necessary testing, and keep our body clean, moisturized, and free of sores, for the sake of medical providers and us.
- Be sure to have hearing aids working well or an interpreter with us, taking notes. Ask questions or request rephrases for efficient and clear communication.
- Be on time for appointments. Stay calm, focused, with all necessary information and note-taking materials ready. Know we may feel more emotional while sick.
- Be aware of timeduring our appointment, teaming with our provider to stay within our scheduled slot. Even though Medicare pays for different length sessions, providers’ offices may be unable to lengthen an appointment span fairly.
- Tell our providers the truth, thoroughly, completely, and succinctly.
- Bring a list of our symptoms with dates, logs, and details. Accurate diagnosing is a team effort.
- Bring a list of our medicationsand dosages and our insurance cardsand contact information.
- Expect our provider to explore possible treatments with us, not decide on a treatment for us. If directed to a treatment, stay calm, ask for alternatives and the pros/cons of each, and request more appointment time as needed, thus allowing for a delayed but eventual, prompt, well-considered, mutual treatment decision.
- Ask our provider for the steps involved in treatment. Take notes–including anticipated procedures, locations, dates, and planned prescription medications–to protect ourselves financially by researching treatment costs,payment procedures, and subsequent necessary alternatives to these treatment plan sections. Request any necessary adaptations due to physical disabilities and financial restrictions.
- With help from our provider’s office, get procedure pre-approvalsfrom insurers. Check with our drug insurance company about coverage for planned medication. Check with our preferred pharmacist for substitutes that our insurance would more likely cover, and for any potential drug interactions with our present medications. Bring the pharmacy contact information to our appointment.
- Schedule all procedures, arrange transportationand drivers for all trips, and arrange caretakersas needed to accompany us during, after, and in at-home care.
- Have care supplies(arm extender, ice packs, heating pads, wedge pillow, toilet lift seat, walker, etc.) ready before the procedure. Be sure our pharmacist is alerted that a caretaker may need to pick up medication for us.
- Rest, and follow all pre- and post-procedure directions seriously, carefully and completely.Know whom to call for the right level of help if needed. Should a high-risk problem arise, the fire department ambulance costs less than those of private companies.
Patsy Stahl lives in Tacoma and is a former teacher, community-organizer, and mental health worker. She wants to help patients by sharing what she has learned from her own mistakes as a patient and through research.