December 2001 Bulletin
Heres office visit tips to help patients
Statement can be a handout for an effective meeting; questions if surgery is recommended
An effective patient visit involves good communications by both physicians and patients. To help your patients, you can download and distribute the AAOS Position Statement on Getting the Most Out of a Visit with Your Doctor available in the "About Orthopaedics" section of the AAOSs Your Orthopaedic Connection at http://orthoinfo.aaos.org. The Position Statement follows.
Your visit with an orthopaedic surgeon is an important meeting that can be most effective if you plan ahead. Its important that you give your doctor the information he or she needs and that you understand what your doctor is recommending. The following checklist will help you and your doctor discuss the issues most important for getting the most out of the visit.
Before you go
- Find out the basics about the office. Where is it? What time should you arrive? If youre going to drive, where can you park? Do you need to bring your insurance card or a managed care medical referral?
- Assemble your records such as results and copies of X-rays, other imaging studies and lab tests and personally take the records to the doctors office.
- Make written lists of:
- Medications you are taking.
- Your medical history, such as prior treatments for heart or thyroid problems or operations, even those not related to your current problem.
- Your concerns about your condition (pains, loss of mobility or function).
- Consider asking a friend or family member to accompany you. If you need a translator, ask another adult to come with you; dont rely on a child to translate.
- Dress appropriately. For spine and many problems involving the arms and legs, you may be asked to disrobe. Wear loose clothing thats easy to take off and put on.
At the doctors office
- Arrive early so you can complete any required forms or tests before meeting with your doctor.
- Be honest and complete in talking with your doctor. Share your point of view and dont hold back information about issues such as incontinence, memory loss, sex, or other issues that you might consider embarrassing.
- Stick to the point. It might be fun to share news about the children, but keep it short to get the most out of your time with the doctor.
- Take notes on what the doctor tells you, and ask questions if you dont understand the meaning of a word or the instructions for taking medication.
- Ask what to expect from your treatment, what effect it will have on your daily activities and what you can do to prevent further disability.
- Ask your doctor for handouts or brochures that you and your family members can review at home. Your doctor may refer you to an Internet web site for more information.
- Talk to the other members of the health care team, too, such as physician assistants, nurses, therapists (speech, physical or occupational).
When you get home
- Review the materials the doctor gave you. If you cant remember something, or if you dont understand your notes, call the office and speak to a member of your health care team.
- Follow the doctors instructions. Take the full course of medication and make sure you follow the prescribed diet or exercise routine. Remember, youre a part of your health care team, too.
- Keep your doctor informed of any changes in your condition.
Questions to ask at the visit or later, if your doctor recommends surgery
- Why is this procedure being recommended? Are there alternatives?
- What are the benefits of this procedure in terms of pain relief and improvement of function and mobility? How long will the benefits last?
- What are the risks involved?
- What is the procedure called? How is it done?
- What percentage of patients improves following the procedure?
- What will happen if I dont have the surgery now?
- If I want a second opinion, whom can I consult?
- Will my doctor perform the operation or someone else? If someone else, when can I meet him or her. Is the doctor board certified?
- How many similar procedures have been done by my doctor (or whoever will perform the procedure)? What are the outcomes?
- Will I need any tests or medical evaluations prior to the surgery?
- What kind of anesthesia will be used? Are there possible after effects or risks?
- What kind of implant or prosthesis will be used? What are the outcomes using this device? How long will it last?
- Will I have pain following the procedure?
- How long will the recovery take? Will I need assistance at home afterwards? For how long?
- Will I have any disability following surgery? Will I need physical therapy?
- When can I return to work? When can I drive my car? When can I have sexual activity?
- Are there any written materials or videotapes about this surgery that I can review?
If you decide to go ahead with the surgery, check with your insurance company to see if your coverage requires you to obtain a managed care medical evaluation or clearance before the surgery. You should also verify that the surgery is covered by your policy and find out how your claim will be handled and paid.
Your orthopaedist is a medical doctor with extensive training in the diagnosis and nonsurgical and surgical treatment of the musculoskeletal system, including bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves.
Communicate welcomes suggestions about future topics for the column on patient-physician communications. Send your suggestions to the Bulletin at AAOS, 6300 N. River Rd., Rosemont, Ill. 60018.