How to Get the Most Out of Your GP
Going to the doctor can be confusing and time-consuming. Here’s how to take your healthcare into your own hands, and make it out of the clinic in a reasonable time.
Get the First Appointment of the Day
What is it with doctors that they think their time is more valuable than yours, leaving you to cool your heels in the waiting room for an hour or more past your scheduled appointment? One way to get around this is to make sure you get the first appointment of the day or the first appointment after lunch, says UCLA’s Mary Hardy, M.D. No one will have tied up the doctor or staff before you, and everyone will be more refreshed and less rushed than if they’re running between you, the “chronic cough,” and the “foot fungus.”
Do Your Homework On Your Condition
The days of trusting implicitly in your doctor are over. These days, you have to be an active participant in your health care. And that means learning about your condition and the best way to treat it. No, you don’t need to go to medical school. Thanks to the internet, national guidelines for treating many health conditions are just a few mouse clicks away. Start with guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence, then make sure you ask your doctor if your treatment is based on the latest evidence.
Ask to Sample a Drug First
When your doctor prescribes a brand-name medication, ask if you can have samples. Drug company representatives often give doctors free samples, and it will cost your doctor nothing to pass them along to you. You’ll get a “free ride” for several days, and if you have a bad reaction to the medicine, you’ll find out without having paid a cent. You may actually end up giving that pharmaceutical company less of your cash for a change. One caveat: Check the expiration date on the drugs first.
Tell Your Doctor What You Can Afford
Studies find that doctors won’t ask you if you can afford your medication, but if you tell them you can’t, they’ll come up with strategies so you can get your drugs and still have money to pay the rent and eat. Some options: writing prescriptions for generics instead of brand names, reducing dosages, stopping some medications, teaching you how to split pills, and referring you to pharmaceutical assistance programs. So forget the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on income when it comes to your health.
Schedule Your Skin Checkup for Winter
If you call your dermatologist in June and ask for an appointment for your annual skin check in August, is the receptionist going to say, “Why don’t you wait until December when you don’t have a tan and it’s easier to see any irregularities?” No, most likely she will go right ahead and make your appointment without passing along this vital information. But now you know, so hold off on that exam until winter.
Time Your Pap Test
Okay, guys, you can tune out here. This is just for the ladies. Before you schedule that annual Pap test, check your calendar. The best time for the test is the week before or after you ovulate, usually the first or third week of your menstrual cycle, says Dr. Mary Hardy. This is when the cervical opening is widest, so it’s easier to get a sample, and the cervical mucus is thinnest, increasing the accuracy of the test.
Time Your Mammogram
Ladies, whether anyone talks about it or not, having your breasts squeezed between two glass plates in a futile attempt to make them as flat as a pancake hurts. But it must be done (every year or two from age 40 onward). To reduce the pain, time your mammogram for the week after your period, suggests the American Cancer Society. Your breasts are less tender and, an added bonus, a major study found mammograms taken during this time are more accurate. They’re less likely to result in false positives, while mammograms taken during the second half of your menstrual cycle are twice as likely to miss a cancer.