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You’re lucky if you have fifteen minutes. You feel rushed, vulnerable (those drafty gowns!), embarrassed – par for the course in an average ob/gyn visit. But your insurance may pay for only one well-women visit a year. So make it work for you:
Find the right clinician or health care provider
•Chemistry is important. Get a referral from friends, family, or co-workers. If they’re happy, chances are you will be too. Ask about your health care provider’s experience, how much time he or she spends with patients answering questions, and the quality and approachability of the office staff. [i]
•If your insurance only covers an approved list of in-network doctors, research them online. You may want to check sites that post patient reviews of doctors to get more information. [ii]
Prepare to share
•Your doctor has to see a lot of patients each day, so come prepared to make the time you have really work for you. If you keep a running list of health questions during the year to bring to the appointment, you’ll save time and probably remember stuff you would otherwise have forgotten. [iii]
•Know your personal and family medical history. If a woman in your family had breast cancer or underactive thyroid, it puts you in an at-risk group. Let your provider know. [iv]
•Be honest about your current sex life and sexual history. It doesn’t pay to edit yourself when your health is concerned. Your sexual lifestyle will determine the recommendations doctors make, such as tests for sexually transmitted diseases or a different form of birth control. [v]
•Take notes. Most of us retain only twenty percent of what we hear and there’s a good chance you won’t remember too many specifics once you leave the examination room. [vi]
•Some symptoms require immediate attention. If you have changes in your period, irregular bleeding, sudden weight loss, or, especially, pain, don’t wait for your annual exam. Make an appointment with your provider immediately, or go to the emergency room.
•Take responsibility for what comes after the appointment.
•Be clear about what comes after the visit. Is there a prescription you need
to fill? Medication you should be taking? If so, how often? Does the medication need to be handled or stored in a special way? Do you need to avoid certain foods or other medicines?
•If you are diagnosed with a condition, is there a specialist with whom you need to follow-up? Whom would your provider recommend?
•If you had tests taken, ask when to expect the results and how you will receive them.
Only one-fourth of women age eighteen to thirty-four with health care providers initiate conversations with their doctors about sexual health—and four in ten aren’t too comfortable about it. This is surprising considering that this age group is famous for "TMI" and practically invented new norms for personal information sharing online. Sister, it’s your nickel, so ask your questions. Trust us, the doctor has seen and heard it all.
[i] Medline Plus. Choosing a Doctor or Healthcare Service. Available here. Accessed on September 16, 2010.
[ii] Medline Plus. Choosing a Doctor or Healthcare Service. Available here. Accessed on September 16, 2010.
[iii] National Institute on Aging. How Should I Prepare? Getting Ready for An Appointment. Available here. Accessed on September 16, 2010.
[iv] National Institute on Aging. How Should I Prepare? Getting Ready for An Appointment. Available here. Accessed on September 16, 2010.
[v] TheBody.com. Taking Sexual History: The Whys and Hows. Available here. Accessed on September 16, 2010.
[vi] The National Cancer Institute. Adult Learning Principles. Available here. Accessed on September 16, 2010.