This blog post first appeared over at ClarkHoward.com.
Going to a doctor’s appointment can be a frustrating experience. Endless waits in both the waiting and the exam rooms, and then getting home to realize that you’ve forgotten to discuss an important health issue. It’s no wonder that many people procrastinate even making an appointment.
However, with a bit of deliberate planning, you can get the most from your medical appointments by following these tips:
Time your appointment:
Ask for the first appointment of the day or the first one right after the lunch break. This way the doctor is less likely to be behind schedule due to patients visits that run long or extra appointments that get squeezed in.
Pay attention to when your appointment is:
Women’s annual appointments usually include a pap smear, which is a standard cervical cancer screening. Unfortunately this test cannot be performed while menstruating, so make sure to track your cycle in order to not lose out on this important test. Women’sHealth.gov states that “The best time to be tested is 10 to 20 days after the first day of your period.”
Be on time for your appointment:
Aim for being fifteen minutes early for your appointment, especially if it’s a new provider that may requires sheafs of paperwork to fill out. Late patients run the risk of losing precious minutes with their doctors.
Make a list:
It’s easy to get flustered or distracted when sitting one-on-one with the doctor, so you do yourself a favor and write out a list of what you want to discuss. To also include should be any medications you take, (both prescription and over the counter) as well as the dosages. Also, you should prioritize this list, in case you don’t get a chance to hit every topic.
Be concise with your information:
Everyone in your life may love your stories about great-aunt Ethel’s crazy health issues, but you need to make every minute count. Many offices schedule a mere fifteen minutes for each appointment, so going off topic takes away from the time to discuss your own health issues.
Always ask about generic medications:
Although not all medications are available in a generic form, many are. Pharmaceutical companies deliberately make their brand names easier to remember and pronounce than the generic, which makes memorization more difficult for everyone, even the doctors. Make sure to request generics whenever you receive a new prescription.
Ask for a 90-day prescription:
It can be less expensive to fill a 90-day prescription, rather than three 30-day ones. Plus, it cuts down on the time spent keeping your prescriptions filled. This is a great plan for long term medication usage.
Ask for free sample and coupons:
Pharmaceutical reps provide copious amounts of samples that are not just for low income patients. So make sure to nicely ask both your doctor and their nurse if you can get samples for new, long term and even over the counter medications. Don’t forget to ask for any additionally available coupons while you’re at it!
Ask about specialty programs:
Many pharmaceutic companies have programs to assist with the cost of medications for low income patients. You may have to research these ahead of time, as not all doctors are aware of programs available to their patients.
Confirm that specialists and labs are in-network:
Each doctor works with a myriad of different labs and specialists, many of whom may not accept your insurance. This may sound like an intimidating project to delve into, but it’s usually just a matter of a phone call or two. These minutes on the phone can keep you from a surprise bill for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Don’t assume you need to see the doctor:
Not all medical needs require you shell out for a co-payment to see the doctor. Examples may include immunizations and quick procedures such as a strep test. Call ahead to your doctor’s office to clarify their policies.
A single medication can vary in price much more than you realize. Websites such as GoodRx.com take the legwork out of comparison shopping, and even have links to discounts and coupons to bring your price down even further. A good tip is to go directly to the pharmaceutical companies’ website for discount programs that can take a huge chunk from the cost of your prescriptions.
However you schedule your doctors’ visits, just make sure to be as organized and well informed about your own medical conditions and insurance coverage. And lastly, bring a book. Because you can do everything in your power to be seen on time, yet still end up waiting around.
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”
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