Submitted by Dr. Byron Doepker, Kaiser Permanente Gig Harbor Medical Office
Getting ready to meet a new doctor for the first time? As a patient, it can be a little nerve-racking. As a doctor, sometimes we’re a little nervous too! Here are a few things to help you get the best care from day one.
Have a Goal
Think about what you’d like to accomplish with your visit. This is always important when seeking care, and it’s especially helpful for a first visit. Are you coming in to get to know your doctor, for your doctor to get to know you, to address a specific issue, or some combination of all of those? As a patient, it isn’t easy to know how long any topic may take. If you let us know your visit goals and health concerns up front, we can help plan out the visit with you, ensuring you get your questions answered.
If you’re changing doctors, your new doctor may not have all your old records right away. Prepare a list of your current medications (including doses), and make notes on how you take them, if there are differences with what it says on the bottle. Collecting a family history or keeping a list of your prior surgeries can be helpful as well.
A first visit usually means a little extra paperwork. Believe it or not, pre-visit forms are crucial tools for us getting to know your health history and building an accurate medical record, and we really do look at them each time. Arriving about 15 minutes before every visit is a good habit to make sure you get the most from your time with us, while avoiding any blood pressure jumps with last-minute traffic!
Is there information about your beliefs or values that would be important for your doctor to know? When we as doctors make assumptions about what’s important to you, we often fall short of providing you the best care. Sharing your worries and fears is also an incredibly powerful way to be certain we’re addressing your chief concerns.
When something doesn’t make sense, call us out. As physicians, we are educators first and foremost. If we’re not teaching you about your health in a way that helps you to understand and to make decisions, tell us. We should be tailoring the experience to you.
As a doctor, what I most love about family medicine is the opportunity to get to know my patients over time. This relationship-building takes time, and it can be especially hard to restart this process if your last doctor knew you for years or decades. Know that we’ll get there together.
After your visit, you may get a survey asking for your input. You can skip any questions that may not apply to you, but anything you can tell us helps to improve our care. We read all those comments too. If you feel up to it, give your doctor and other team members direct feedback as well. There is no experience quite as humbling and helpful as when a patient tells me that I’m not meeting their expectations or standards. We should all remember: we’re here for you.
My colleagues and I are excited to welcome new patients when our new Kaiser Permanente Gig Harbor Medical Office opens in late December. Find out more here.