I recently started working at a new clinic in Arlington, VA, which has been a great experience so far. Of course, with a new job comes lots of new patients. An interesting trend I am finding are patients who have not seen doctors in years…and for some in a few decades. I have to admit that these are my favorite type of patients. Seeing them makes me put my thinking cap on to figure out why they have not seen a doctor. Is it because life can be busy and seeing a doctor can be an afterthought or because there is a fear of going to the doctor that becomes a major concern? Whatever the case, I am always happy to see new faces and I have a secret aim to make their doctor’s experience the best one possible.
For the patients who have not been seen for years, many do not know what actually goes into their annual visit. Yes, the topics that are covered in most annual physicals include questions about diet and exercise, but as one ages the questions expand. Topics like sexual activity and issues with erections may arise along with doing screenings like a mammogram or colonoscopy. Additionally, family medical history is a topic we discuss. (Surprisingly, many people do not know much about their family medical history mainly because some families do not discuss this together.)
So what advice would I give to a patient who hasn’t been seen by a doctor in years?
Keep an open mind
Some patients think that when they come into clinic they will be hit with a millions of things to do. I also know that patients think that the entire experience of going to the doctor will be a horrible one from start to finish.
Knowing how the doctor’s experience can be for all patients, I personally try to use a different strategy. When I walk into a patient room, I greet my patients with a HUGE smile, state my name, and say “Welcome, we are glad you are here!” For some this can be a little shocking as they never have seen or heard a doctor do this. Others feel like they have made the right decision and are in the right place at the right time. Either way, I am happy that they took a step in making sure they are healthy and well.
I find that many people, whether you come to the doctor on a regular basis or not, know what are healthy versus unhealthy habits. Most people know that eating at McDonald’s is not the healthiest choice. Well, during the annual visits we discuss how to make healthier choices.
I try to go even further to discuss what are the barriers holding patients back from having a healthier lifestyle. By the end of each conversation, I try to reassure patients that we all are human and have problems and no one is exempt. Our job is to work together to get and keep each patient on the right track toward a healthy lifestyle.
Don’t think that all your medical questions can be addressed in one session
Now I can go on and on with this one. As a medical provider, I get bombarded with patient concerns all at one time. I love to help people, but there is only so much I can cover in a 15 or 30-minute appointment.
This is what I suggest patients to do: Write down your concerns prior to coming to see me or any doctor. Then look at those concerns and then put them in order of what needs to be addressed first as well as concerns that are most important to you. It’s also helpful for you as patient to have written goals for your health. This will help your medical provider best take care of you and your concerns.
Also, keep in mind that if you are coming to the clinic for your physical exam, some of the concerns may have to be discussed in another appointment altogether in order to give each concern as much TLC as possible.
Have your previous medical records sent to your new doctor
I would consider having your medical records sent to your new doctor a BIG MUST! Why? Because as patients we all forget things and may not be able to articulate all the medical problems that accumulated over the years. I have not found a patient yet who can rattle off the years they have gotten their vaccines. Having your medical records, can give us a better understanding of where you have come from and have come through in order to guide you to your health goals. It also gives us a since of the screening tests that have already been done.
If you are a patient who has not seen a medical provider in some time, try your best to relax. Our job is not to hurt you, but to make your life even better!
Going to the doctor can be tough at times, but it also can help save your life. With each annual visit, you will have your blood pressure taken and even may have your blood tested, but the core of it all is to make sure you are living your healthiest life. As your doctors, allow us to be your guides to living a healthier and happier life.