If you live with MS, you will see the inside of a doctor’s office more often than you might prefer. It is part of living with any chronic disease. My neurologist likes to see his patients at regular intervals and the longest I’ve gone between scheduled appointments was six months. Visits were much more frequent during the first year.
A positive benefit of having so many appointments is that I’ve developed a system of preparation which works well for my doctors and me. Ahead of time I create a “doctor visit sheet” on my computer which is then printed out to take to the appointment. It helps me to keep track of what’s going on with my health, gives me a dated record, and helps my doctor in giving me the best care possible.
Creating the doctor visit file:
Using your word processing software, create a new file and label it with the name of the doctor and the date of the office visit, for example “Simsarian, 04 April 2011.” Save that file in a new folder labeled “Medical Visits.”
What information should I include on the doctor visit sheet?** Personal Information:**
- Your name
- Date of the appointment
- Your occupation and/or hobbies
- Your insurance coverage - I choose to include information regarding health insurance since it might influence treatment choices.
Current Medications and Supplements:
- Prescription medications - name of medication, dosage, and frequency
- Supplements - list vitamins and herbals, include dosage and frequency
- As needed medications - name of medication and dosage, include these medications even if you haven’t needed them recently
Reason for TodayÊ¼s Visit:
- Is this a follow-up visit? Is your visit to address a specific concern?
- Did you have any tests? List them here to remind yourself to ask for the results.
Since the Last Visit:
- Most important section of your doctor visit sheet!
- Describe any changes (good or bad) in your health since your last visit. Do you have new concerns or symptoms? Have any of your symptoms improved?
- List any significant medical events/tests done since your last visit, include the dates.
- Share any additional information which pertains to your overall health, not just MS-related concerns.
- Use this section to track how your symptoms change over time.
- List new symptoms, continuing symptoms, and symptoms which may have resolved.
Potential symptoms to consider, rate each on a scale of 1-5 (0=absent, 1=mild, 3=moderate, 5=severe):
- Vision Issues or Loss of Vision (right eye or left eye)
- Double Vision
- Weakness (arms/hands, right/left); Weakness (legs/feet, right/left)
- Numbness (arms/hands, right/left); Numbness (legs/feet, right/left)
- Coordination Problems (arms, right/left) or (legs, right/left)
- Balance Problems
- Trouble Walking/Falling
- Speech Problems
- Memory Loss/Cognitive Problems
- Decreased Attention/Concentration
- Poor Judgment/Reasoning
- Fatigue (constant/intermittent)
- Bladder Problems
- Bowel Problems
- Sexual Problems
Questions for the Doctor:
- List the three most important questions you have for the doctor that you’d like answered during this visit.
- Include any questions you have regarding new research or information learned and for which you want to know your doctor’s opinion. Your doctor may or may not have the time to discuss this information in detail.
Prescription Refills Needed:
- List any medications for which you need new prescriptions.
- State whether you need a prescription for a three-month supply (refilled four times per year) or if you need a monthly prescription.
Forms to Be Completed:
- List any forms you need completed, include information on any deadlines for submission.
- Bring all the copies necessary to your appointment and have them ready to be signed or completed on the spot.
- If the forms needed are extensive, be prepared to leave them with your doctor to be retrieved later.
Remember that the importance of preparing in advance for a doctor’s visit is to help you collect and present relevant information. It also helps you to collect your thoughts and questions ahead of time so that you don’t forget anything during the visit. The importance for your doctor is be able to quickly see what is going on with you, what has changed since the last visit, and what concerns you have which need to be addressed.
Lisa Emrich is a patient advocate, accomplished speaker, author of the award-winning blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA, and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers. Lisa uses her experience to educate patients, raise disease awareness, encourage self-advocacy, and support patient-centered research. Lisa frequently works with non-profit organizations and has brought the patient voice to health care conferences and meetings worldwide. Follow Lisa on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.