changing health care, medical monday

5 Questions to Ask a New Doctor

We’ve all been there – you’re sitting at home the night before seeing a new physician and trying to prep. You’re not sure what questions you should ask them and, frankly, you’re more concerned with trying to express your entire medical history in half an hour.
Fear no more! Here are my 5 most important questions.
Do you believe in XYZ diagnosis?
Fibromyalgia has a history of not being believed as a diagnosis. There are, unfortunately, many doctors who still believe this is a fake diagnosis essentially for female hysteria and hypochondria.
If you encounter an older male doctor especially and have fibro, ask this question.
Do you feel comfortable taking on my case?
This is more applicable than the above for most people. Humans are complicated beings. We have multiple medical/health issues, sources of stress, medications, and more. For those of us with rarer conditions, this is a pivotal question to ask.
When I was investigating new rheumatologists this time two years ago, I called an office and asked if they could see if this doctor would be comfortable seeing someone with my conglomeration of fun things. I expected to get a call back from a medical assistant during a lull or maybe the nurse, but doc called me back. She wanted to ask more and we have a pretty long conversation.
She outlined for me right away what she would do, what she would avoid, and more. She was upset that I wasn’t on one of the SJIA-approved medications and wanted to try Kineret/Anakinra right away.
Needless to say, the amount of care she took in speaking with me before I was even her patient led to my decision to see her.
What is your communication style like?
I think it’s important for people to at least be aware of communication preferences or styles that we each may have. This is important in any relationship but can be vital in healthcare.
I mean, this stuff gets into life and death sometimes y’all.
My rheumy and I utilize the electronic medical record system known as MyChart. It’s a widespread EMR system that is fully customizable and happens to be local-ish for us, too. It winds up being like sending an email and is pretty secure. In her office, I usually get same-day responses or (rarely) may have to wait until the next day.
In other offices, it can take up to a week for a response.
This is definitely a part of why it’s important to see what your doc wants to know in what way(s).
When XYZ happens, do you prefer I contact you or another physician?
This is one that I frankly need to ask all my current healthcare peeps. 
I see my rheumy and related healthcare providers most often. This means that I sometimes am not sure who I should alert about certain things. Sure, things like sinus infections, etc, usually wind up warranting a trip to urgent care since I’m on immunosuppressants. Injuries do, too, due to their severity, like when I split open my foot.
But what about a new symptom that could be a rheumy thing? Do I go GP first, even though she’s really inaccessible as far as schedule?
Some people really rely on their specialists due to the crummy quality of their primary care selection. I once had an old PCP tell me 1) this abscess I clearly had was a pimple, and, 2) to take my biologic as scheduled.
He also laughed literally in my face during that, so he was definitely fired.
The point is, we have to start asking this. It’s just as important as who to contact first in an emergency.
Are my medications ones that you feel comfortable prescribing?
This is one that I wish I had asked before seeing my new rheumy. The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) and Lyrica that I take several times daily aren’t things doc feels awesome about. That said, she knows I might not be alive without them, so she prescribes them but always with a goal of lowering them eventually.
The supply muscle relaxers I had ‘just in case’ is currently dwindling and she’s not down with prescribing those like my last doc was.
This is something that I will have to ask my primary care doctor about instead. I believe that she would be down with that, especially if I were to tell her how long this last bottle has really lasted.
What questions do you ask new healthcare peeps? Are there any you’ve learned to ask the hard way?

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  1. how many patients with XYZ are you treating and for how long? I love young doctors, but I want to know they are not learning on me. We say doctors practice medicine, I want to know they have practiced on a few before I showed up.

  2. That's a good point. With that said, though, the most caring doctors I have had are younger and haven't always encountered my illness fun BUT are open to listening and learning *from* patients when that is the case. I'm a super nerd, too, so I don't mind teaching as much as long as I know they will actually listen.

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