Managing Meniere’s Disease: 12 Tips to Maximize Your Doctor Visits

Visiting your ENT (ears, nose, throat specialist) or other health care specialist usually involves a wait of three weeks or more and your visit may be over in 10 minutes or less.  With those odds, you want to make sure to maximize those 10 minutes.  Here are some ideas of how to optimize your doctor’s appointments.

  1. Arrive early.  This is especially important on your first visit to a new doctor.  That time will quickly get used filling out all manner of documents including permissions and health histories.  There are usually privacy statements and other official documents for you to read.
  2. Bring the information you need to fill out all the required documents.  This includes insurance identification cards, your medical history, a list of medications you are currently taking, a list of vitamins, herbs, and supplements you take, the dates of any associated lab work, list of drug allergies, and your emergency contacts.  All this information is a royal pain to recollect and compile again and again for different doctors.  One way to simplify this process is to keep track of all this information in one document that you take with you to all your doctors.  One handy format is this health history.   Fill it out and keep it updated and your efforts will save time again and again.
  3. Be prepared to wait in the waiting room for a while.  Unfortunately the business of visiting any health care professional involves waiting.  If that process angers you, your visit with your doctor, can be less than cordial and less than effective  Accept the fact that you will wait and prepare for it.  Bring something to read or something to listen to.
  4. Bring your list of questions. This should not only include the big questions you have but also the secondary round of questions. You can anticipate the answers to some of those initial questions spawning another round of questions.  Write the all down.
  5. Bring your health journal.  I have written about the value of your health journal.  Bring it with you and share the contents with your doctor.  The contents such as frequency of your symptoms will help your doctor determine the severity of your condition and may alter your diagnosis accordingly.
  6. Take notes or make and audio recording of your visit.  We have all heard the proverb “The faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory.”  You need a way to record the instructions your doctor has given you.  If you make an audio recording, be sure to ask permission first.
  7. Consider bringing someone else with you for your visit.  There are two big advantages to this strategy.  First off, if you don’t follow either of the suggestions in #6, you will have someone else to help you remember the counsel of your doctor during your visit.  Second, you will have another point of view and another advocate on your side. This other person will have a different perspective than you and will most likely ask a different set of questions that you may have never considered.  That second set of questions may or may not be beneficial to your visit so choose well your advocate you take with you.
  8. Make sure you understand everything your doctor says.  If you are asked to do something you don’t understand, follow up with a question to clarify what is being asked of you.  If you don’t understand the answer, ask another more pointed question to ensure the doctor understands what exactly what you do not understand.  If you leave the office not understanding what your doctor asks of you, your visit has been a waste of everyone’s time.
  9. If medications are prescribed, understand the frequency of taking the drugs, how they will help and their side effects.
  10. Be completely honest during your visit.  This is not the time to look good.  Share.  Share.  Share.  The more the doctor knows about what is going on, the more empowered he or she is to help you.  The more accurate the information, the better.
  11. If something changes negatively after your visit, contact your doctor immediately.  A few years ago, I had a foot operation and afterwards I broke out with canker sores. For several days, I couldn’t figure out what my problem was and then I realized that it was most likely a cause of the NSAID drugs that my doctor had prescribed to control inflamation.  I called and explained what was going on.  He changed my prescription and the canker sores disappeared.  Sometimes prescriptions need to be increased or decreased.  Everyone responds a little different to different treatments.  The doctor needs feedback to hone in on the right prescription for you.
  12. Follow the full  advice of your doctor to the letter. This is not a time to pick and choose what you would like to do and what you decide you will not do.  Often, getting better requires effort in several different areas to help you get better. If you doctor prescribes drugs, asks you to perform specific exercises, and puts you on a special diet, you should do all three.  This is especially true for those with Meniere’s disease.  There is no one single silver bullet that will make all your problems go away.

Here’s to getting the help you need in 2012.  Happy New Year!