5 Ways to be a Better Patient

You show up for appointments on time. You take prescribed medications. You keep your weight and cholesterol levels in check. You're the ideal patient, right? Actually, you could be doing more for yourself.

Robert Altenau MD , a family medicine doctor at Rudemiller Family Medicine , shares five tips for being a better patient.

#1: Be Honest

Sometimes patients hold back seemingly harmless information about their health, like how much they drink or smoke, out of embarrassment. "If people don't share, say, how much they're smoking cigarettes, that's an important thing for us to know, because there are things we can do to help," Dr. Altenau explains.

He also reminds you that the only time he would be obligated to report anything would be if you say you're going to hurt yourself or somebody else. Aside from those two scenarios, everything you tell your doctor is completely confidential, he says.  

#2: Come to Checkups with Your Shot Record/Current List of Medications

Coming to your doctor's appointment with your shot record and an updated list of over-the-counter medications and supplements you currently take is especially helpful for children, adults who have had a shot done at work or a pharmacy, or people switching primary care doctors. "Bringing in records can be really helpful for us, so we don't have to dig through and get the records from somewhere else. It just makes it a little easier," Dr. Altenau explains.

#3: Get a Physical Every Year

Dr. Altenau recommends a physical for everybody, every year, regardless of age. When you go a few years in between each doctor's appointment, you have to reestablish the relationship and your doctor has to get up-to-date on your health history. "It helps the relationship out a lot, so when you do have an issue come up, it's a lot easier to take care of things, since we've been touching base every year," he points out.

#4: If You Don't Hear Anything, Follow Up

Many people follow the mantra, "no news is good news," and while sometimes that's the case, it could also mean your doctor's office couldn't get through to you for whatever reason.

As part of Rudemiller Family Medicine's office policy, someone from their team will contact each patient to inform him or her of the results - regardless of the outcome. "I usually tell people, if you don't hear anything in the week, call our office," Dr. Altenau says. "That 'no news is good news' always makes me a little nervous, because that's how things can get missed." 

#5: Always Keep Your Doctor in the Loop

Thanks to worksite wellness programs, more people are getting lab work or physicals done at their work place.

In these cases, Dr. Altenau stresses the importance of having the healthcare professional providing care either fax the medical information regarding the appointment to your primary care doctor, or he suggests dropping off a copy to your doctor's office. "Always keep your primary care physician in the loop, because I see myself as an overseer of someone's medical care. If they're getting something done somewhere else, I want to know about it," he adds.

Tags: Health Tips, Prevention and Early Detection, Wellness and Fitness

Last Updated: September 21, 2017