10 Ways to Maximize Your Doctor’s Visit

“The part can never be well unless the whole is well.”  ~Plato

I want you to get the most out of your appointment with me — it is not about the quantity of time we spend, but rather the quality of our appointment. And that’s where you can help by preparing and actively participating. The last thing I want is for you to get home, and then suddenly realize you or a family member forgot to ask about insurance coverage for a certain test, or the headache you’ve had for the last few weeks, or any other important health concerns.  We’ve all done that, and wanted to kick ourselves for not asking the right questions. Here are eight pointers that I believe will help maximize the visit for you and your family:

Before Your Visit

1. Let us know of your symptoms or concerns: When you book your appointment, it’s a good idea to let us know upfront of any symptoms or concerns so we can schedule the right type of appointment, and appropriate amount of time to spend with you. You can call our office (510-912-0105) or book your appointment with us online. Let us know if the appointment is for a follow-up physical or medicare annual. If you are emailing, be sure to include your first and last name, and date of birth so we can look up your chart, if required. (See 24 hours a day/7-days a week Schedule An Appointment on our home page.)

2. Know your history: Depending on whether this is a first appointment with us, or an ongoing one, it is important that we have up-to-date records on your medical history.  If you are a new patient, we may ask you to come early to fill out new patient forms, or you can download the forms from our website prior to your appointment and bring them with you. Go to Patient Forms. As a new patient, we’ll need your health questionnaire and medical release form filled out and signed. If you have already registered, you don’t need to register again unless you have moved or have a new insurance card.

3. Bring a list of medications or test results, if applicable. While much of this is on the medical form you will fill out, we recommend making a separate list of all prescription drugs as well as any over-the-counter medicines or herbal medications you may have been taking. If it is easier, just bring the pill and vitamin bottles with you in a clear plastic bag. If applicable, also bring copies of any test results such as x-ray or MRI reports. And as an example, if you have diabetes, we would like to review your blood sugar logs. Or, if you know you have high blood pressure, we recommend getting a series of readings during the week prior to your visit so we can gauge whether your numbers have spiked during our meeting due to nervous tension.

4. Bring your up-to-date insurance cards, and co-pays, if required.

5. Jot down questions to ask. This is an important step — we really want to urge you to spend a few minutes prior to your appointment writing down a few questions and concerns you have on your health issues. Think of the top three to five questions you have on your health, in order of priority. And be sure to bring up these issues right at the beginning of your appointment, don’t wait until the end.

6. Fast, if required, to prepare for blood tests the night before. If you will be having a blood test, please be sure to stop eating after 10 p.m. the night before, and no breakfast on the day of the appointment, only water.

During Your Visit

7. Don’t be afraid to participate, and take an active role in your care.  Your well-being depends on your feeling comfortable to share your thoughts and concerns about your health — both physical and emotional concerns. Please don’t be embarrassed by any question, we think open communication is the key to a successful visit.  Some symptoms are difficult to discuss — sexual dysfunction, addictions, hemorrhoids, a rash ‘down there — but we want to put you at ease. Your honesty and directness will give us the information we need to better treat you. If you have a more complicated medical issue, and would feel more comfortable having an ‘appointment buddy’ or loved one with you during the appointment, we want to encourage you to do so.  They can help ask questions and give you the support you may need. Ask them to take notes for you, or feel free to jot down some notes of your own when we are talking.

8. Come with current pharmacy information. Be sure to tell us which pharmacy you use, so we can get it in your record online. Using the 90-day mail order pharmacy can save time and money. You can also email us this information.

After Your Visit

9.  Follow through and follow up: Be sure to follow the directions we give you on scheduling another follow-up appointment, referrals, tests required, or just the day-to-day recommendations that will improve your health. If you have any questions, or don’t completely understand something, we encourage you to call or email us at christichengmd@gmail.com.

10. Keep tabs on yourself, and your family. It may sound funny to ask you to keep tabs on your own health, but the more informed you are of your health issues, the better job we can do assessing your needs, helping you prevent any illnesses in the future, and managing your ongoing healthcare. Keep the descriptions of your current symptoms simple, think bullet items. And note how you are feeling  and how the symptoms have affected your normal function.

Still have questions?  Here are some helpful contacts:

  • For follow-up questions or medication refills: Contact my nurse Roscelle at 510.351.2100, ext. 245 or leave an urgent email at christichengmd@gmail.com
  • For billing issues and codes: Contact my billing administrator Yvonne at butterlove@prodigy.net.
  • For appointment status or cancellations: We ask that you always make a note of your appointment, or call us to verify. If you need to cancel or reschedule, please try to call us 24 hours in advance so we can use the time slot for another patient. Email at christichengmd@gmail.com.
  • Call this main number for appointments: 510-351-2100, and ask someone to call you back for an appointment, OR call 510-912-0105 or email christichengmd@gmail.com.

In my next blog post, I’ll be discussing ways to manage your allergies.

Be happy, stay healthy.

—  Dr. Christi Cheng


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