Getting to the point where you have your first Lupus appointment has probably been a long time coming. If you’re like most of us, you suspected and knew something was wrong, but had no idea what. Then, you and your doctor suspected Lupus, and only after the appropriate testing and a long history of symptoms, you’re finally getting to see the right doctor to help you. It’s probably a rheumatologist, but sometimes it’s an internist. No matter what type of doctor you see, it’s imperative to go into the appointment prepared and ready.
Before the Appointment:
- Ask the doctor’s office for all required office forms ahead of the appointment so that you can fill them out at home, prior to going into the doctor’s office.
- Discuss the health insurance and payment policies of the doctor’s office to determine what is expected of you financially for the first and subsequent visits.
- Gather and organize your relevant medical records, including blood test results, reports showing diagnoses from other doctors who have treated you for Lupus-related ailments, such as orthopedists, cardiologists, hematologists, pulmonologists, dermatologists, internists, surgeons, etc.
- If you’re able, prepare a summary of relevant diagnoses as a cover sheet for the medical records. It’ll help the doctor see at a glance everything that has happened to you without having to thumb through each page of your medical records.
- Write down all your questions for the doctor; then organize them in order of priority, realizing that s/he might not get to all of them.
- Confirm your appointment date and time with the doctor’s office three days prior. Sometimes their office staff will give you a reminder call, but not always, depending on the doctor’s policies.
- Pack all your filled-out paperwork and questions the night before the appointment.
On Appointment Day:
- Arrive 15 minutes before your appointment, just to give yourself time to relax before meeting your new doctor.
- Calm your nerves by going over your paperwork to refresh your memory about what you plan to discuss.
During Your Appointment with the Doctor:
- Introduce yourself and make eye contact. Remember, as a new patient, it’s important to establish yourself as someone who is interested in full participating in and taking ownership for your own health as well as getting them to help you with managing it.
- Listen to what the doctor has to say and take notes.
- Inform the doctor that you have brought your medical records for his or her review and for staff to make copies. (Never give away your original records.)
- Tell the doctor that you have questions, and inquire as to the best time to ask them.
- Keep in mind that although this is a first appointment and might last longer than subsequent appointment, the doctor’s time is very valuable. Try to be succinct, remembering that the time will go by very quickly.
- When your first Lupus appointment is about to conclude, be sure to thank your doctor.
After the Appointment:
- Make your follow up appointment with the office staff, as directed by the doctor. Always get a business appointment card as a reminder of your next appointment. Yes, even in this day and age of electronic calendars on smartphones and tablets, I always ask for an appointment card just in case I somehow enter the wrong date or time (Lupus fog happens a lot) or some other strange things happens with my calendar. These appointments are too important to mess with because sometimes it takes months to get back on their schedule if you accidently miss an appointment.
- Ask the office staff if there is any additional paperwork required for future appointments.
Establishing a good rapport from the beginning is essential to maintaining a good working relationship with your doctor. As you work together and get to know each other’s communication styles, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect as you’re treated for Lupus.
How did you prepare for your first Lupus appointment? What do you think of this tip? Could it possibly help you with your relationship with your doctor? If so, how?