Monday, July 17, 2006

get the most out of your appointments

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It is incredibly important that you view your interaction with your doctor as a partnership. There are a lot of simple things you can do to ensure you're holding up your end of the bargain and getting the most out of every single appointment.

In preparation for your next appointment:
  • make arrangements to bring a supportive family member or friend with you
  • write out your questions before the appointment; bring a copy for you, the doctor, and whomever accompanies you to your appointment
  • make a thorough list of all prescription and over the counter medications and supplements you are taking; include frequency and doses
  • keep a headache/migraine diary; bring copies with you to the appointment
  • think about your condition and make notes to yourself
    • What are your symptoms?
    • What has changed since your last appointment?
    • How does your condition impact your daily life?
    • What makes your condition better? What makes it worse?
    • How severe is your pain?
    • Is it constant? Does it get worse throughout the day?
    • What patterns have you observed?
    • How long have you had this condition or pain?
    • How often do you experience acute (as opposed to chronic) headaches?
    • Where is your head pain?
    • How would you describe your pain (stabbing, throbbing, sharp, dull)?
    • How are your current treatment options working for you?
  • if the doctor prescribes a new medication or treatment, ask questions about it; you will want to be aware of the desired outcome, any possible side effects, what to do if you have problems while taking the medication, and how long you can expect to wait for any changes in your condition
  • the same goes for any tests the doctor orders
  • if you need clarification on anything the doctor has said, ask for it
  • ask the doctor what to do if your treatment medication fails to abort an attack
  • ask the doctor what to do between appointments if your preventative plan doesn't help
If you're seeing a doctor for the first time:
  • have your records sent to your new doctor; call your prior or primary care doctor's office and make the request
  • prepare by making some notes to yourself about your own medical history - surgeries, health conditions, etc. - and your family history
  • bring a list of the triggers you have identified
  • bring films from recent X-Rays or MRIs and any other test results
  • check out this link for more helpful advice - Guide to Visiting a New Doctor

How I stay organized:

It works really well for me to maintain a word processing file containing everything I know new doctors will want to know and anything I have observed about my condition. I try to update it at least once a month to include any changes in medication or therapy and make note of any new patterns that may have emerged regarding the timing of my migraines. It's so easy to be able to quickly print off that up-to-date document and bring it along to my appointments instead of trying to remember every little thing off the top of my head.

I also like to print off and bring with me any news articles or journal abstracts containing information I want to discuss with my doctor. For instance, I'm interested in trying olmestartan based on what I read here, so I've printed off a copy of the abstract to bring to my appointment next week.

Keeping a headache journal:

There are a ton of different headache journals out there in all different formats. Many are available for free on the Web and allow you the flexibility of keeping track on your computer or on paper, depending on what is most convenient for you. There are also health journals you can purchase that work well for tracking your condition. If you don't want to spend the money on one, you could use a regular notebook. This idea is especially appealing because it gives you the ability to customize it to your own needs.

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