August 13, 2015 — Blog Post
Helping Patients Prep for Appointments
For both patients and providers, appointments often are not all they could be. Ill-prepared and stressed by the problem and the visit, patients may not remember all their symptoms and can forget both their medications and elements of their own medical histories. Doctors are known to interrupt, and can make a diagnosis too soon. Helping patients create a more coherent history and giving them access to any existing lab or test results before they come in can improve the in-person visit.
A new Patient ToolKit from the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine helps patients think through and capture their symptoms and history in advance. It helps them create a medication list and any treatments tried so far. When patients fill this out at home with access to their own records, it’s also likely to be more accurate. The toolkit also gives clinicians insight into patients’ concerns, how they care for themselves and view their problems.
As part of this, if patients have their labs and can review them before the appointment, they can prepare questions, and with a bit of homework, may understand them. A second appointment to review labs might not even be needed, and may lead to an earlier diagnosis.
Getting Down to the Details
Other tools can help patients prep for a specific visit, like a chronic pain consult, in a more meaningful way. For example, patients can view a web-based program at home. (Clip courtesy of Emmi Solutions).
This gives them time to contemplate their personal treatment goals. They may be walked through an exercise to help them recognize what they would do if they had better control over their pain:
- Take the kids or grandkids to the park?
- Get back to a favorite hobby?
- Get through a full day at work?
- Or take fewer pills for the pain?
Giving people time and tools to help them hone in on their personal goals provides meaning for the consult and treatment plan beyond: “I would like to have less pain.”
Most importantly, these pre-appointment tools give people time to track and document their pain, and give them insight on how to describe the quality and architecture of their pain. People want to feel better. Most are willing to do a little advance work to make progress; they just need a bit of help knowing where to start and what to do.