As an Ob/Gyn I'm sympathetic. You've waited several weeks for this appointment (or have been collecting issues over the past year waiting for your annual visit) and you're one of 30 women your healthcare provider will see today so she seems rushed trying to get you in and out during the 15 minute window you've been given on the schedule. Trust me, your doctor would love to spend more time with you but if she does, she just gets further and further behind (and more negative reviews because she's always late).
Here are some insider tips for ways you can prepare before your appointment to make the most out of your visit.
1) Know your last menstrual period. You know we're going to ask so try to look it up ahead of time. This is really an additional "vital sign" for women that should be asked at every visit (if you're not asked - volunteer the information - it is THAT important). Period tracker apps (such as the one from Planned Parenthood) can help.
2) Bring a list of all of your medications - including supplements or over the counter meds. Hand it to the medical assistant for them to enter into the system.
3) If you've been seen by another doctor or healthcare provider for this same issue or had any tests done at a facility that doesn't share records automatically with your doctor (not within the same health system) then arrange to have records sent to your Ob/Gyn ahead of your appointment. You may have to contact your previous healthcare provider or lab and sign forms requesting the information to be sent or your Ob/Gyn's office may be able to help coordinate that for you but best to do this BEFORE your visit as it can sometimes take several weeks for the records to be sent.
4) If you’re coming in for a problem (pain, bleeding, discharge) there are some basic questions you will be asked so it will help if you think about these ahead of time so you give the most accurate answers rather than being caught off guard. Keeping a diary of your symptoms before your appointment (such as how heavy your bleeding was each day or when you have pain) is also a good idea.
As an example, for pain specifically, you should think about the following:
o What causes the pain/makes it worse? Anything relieve the pain?
o What does it feel like? (sharp, dull, stabbing, burning, etc)
o Does it radiate anywhere?
o How severe is it (scale of 1-10)?
o When did it start and how long does it last? Does it happen just at certain times in the month/week/day or is it constant?
5) There are a lot of things in the pelvic area that can cause problems. In addition to your uterus, ovaries and vagina there are your bowels, bladder, nerves and muscles. We’ll ask a lot of questions to try to figure out if your symptoms might be related to a non-GYN organ – in which case we might have to refer you for other tests and/or to see a different specialist.
6) Signing up for electronic chart access (such as MyChart) is a great idea as it provides a way for you to get results and interact with your provider for follow-up questions electronically. If this system gives you the option to provide broader access to your records to your healthcare providers in other systems, please do this as it helps ensure coordinated care.
Feel free to contact me (via the contact link above) if you have specific questions on how best to prepare for your next Women's Health appointment.