Should you bring someone with you to your next doctor's appointment? If you're asking, the answer is yes. If you're asked, how do you be the best companion?
Prep in advance, listen, record and ask questions. Know why you're going. That means two things:
- What does the person want to accomplish during the appointment? And...
- Why do they want you to accompanying them?
There are many types of visits. Here are four:
- Routine physical
- New acute issue
- Follow-up for an acute issue
- Follow-up for a chronic condition
Prepare in advance for all types of appointment if you can. Bring or make lists of:
- The patient's current meds – prescribed by anyone plus any not prescribed (over-the-counter). Note if they're taken as prescribed, any questions the patient has about the meds, any effects that cause notice. If you can, bring the medications in their containers, just in case.
- All members of the patient's health team: medical and non-medical.
- Anything medical or health-related that has occurred since the last visit with this clinic or clinician.
- Questions that come up during this preparation.
During any visit, listen and record. This is active listening – make sure you understand. Repeat back what you hear. Fill in blanks of information if you can. Ask if you can record the session. Use your phone to do the taping if you have one or bring a tape machine. Ask the person with the appointment if they understand what the doctor has said and if they have any questions. Ask for a copy of the clinician's notes. If someone brings up HIPAA as a reason not share information, they have it backwards. HIPAA mandates the sharing of health information with the person having the appointment.
As soon after the appointment as you can, go over what happened and what you both learned. Memories of lots of details can fade quickly, even in the best of circumstances.
If you're asked, say yes. Going to the doctor with someone is a gift.
This post originally appeared on Danny's blog, Health Hats, on May 11, 2014.