Friday, February 04, 2011

Office Dos and Don'ts

When I am not on call and juggling office visits and catching babies, I am still working in the office seeing both OB and GYN patients every single day of the week. I realize that most of you spend only a fraction of that time in any physician's office, and frankly, we can tell. Here are some helpful hints to make your day at the GYN go a bit more smoothly:

Ob/Gyn Office *Dos*
1. Do make an early appointment. Whenever possible, make your appointment the first appointment of the morning or the first appointment after lunch. Trust me on this one and see below.
2. Do arrive for your appointment at least 10-15 minutes early. I know, I know, why would you want to show up early when you just *know* you are going to be in the office for *hours* on end. Here's why: The Snowball Effect. Invariably, as is required by the office, your insurance, or pencil pushers from various state and local agencies, you will be asked to fill out some kind of form upon your arrival. These are usually not mind-shatteringly difficult, but they can take time. Then the receptionist has to verify your information, make sure your insurance is still good, find your chart, and send it down the line to the MA/RN who will be bringing you into the office. The MA then fills in any new information, takes your vitals, asks the reason for your visit, and takes you to the room. Imagine what happens when you are "just 15 minutes" late for your appointment, everything that has to be done gets done further and further away from your appointment time. Before you know it, you are in the exam room 30 minutes after your appointment time, and if you think your schedule is thrown off, multiply that by 12-15 patients in a half-day. If all of them are even 5 minutes late for their appointment time, it creates a significant backlog for the physician to overcome. We're good, but we can't reverse time. It's just not feasible.
3. Do know your personal and medical history. Be sure that you have approximate dates of any surgeries or hospitalizations that have occurred in the last few years. Know what body parts you do and do not have. Know what medications (and their doses) you are taking, for the love of all that is holy! I have no idea what birth control pills are in the pink rectangular package, and will not be able to divine it easily. Have a tentative idea of when your last period happened. I also have no idea what is in your medical history unless you bring your records to me to look at or have them sent to the office *before* your appointment, so please don't wave a dismissive hand and mumble something about how "it's all in there somewhere."
4. Do bathe. Applying soap and water to your body sometime in the 24 hours before the appointment is considered common courtesy. I really don't care if your legs or any other areas are shaved, hair maintenance really doesn't concern or bother me in the least, but the courtesy of bathing is much appreciated.
5. Do know what you want to accomplish. Write down the questions that you have or issues that you want to address at your appointment. In the hustle of the office routine, you will probably forget something. Keep a little list on a piece of paper or on your phone to review...and I stress *little.*

Ob/Gyn Office *Don'ts*
1. Don't make a routine appointment for an out of the ordinary problem. This, of all things, is my number one pet peeve when it comes to office visits. If you are feeling depressed, your libido is in the toilet, your uterus is falling out, or you feel like you are bleeding to death every month, even if it *is* just about time for your pap smear, please, please, PLEASE don't call the office to make an "annual exam" appointment. Believe it or not, GYN physicians do more than just pap smears. If you want to see the doctor for a problem, make an appointment for such. Here is something you may not realize: You do *not* have to disclose to the scheduler *what kind* of problem you are having! Simply stating you have a problem you would like to discuss with the physician is totally adequate and spares you any embarrassment you may feel. Annual exam appointments are usually given about 10 minutes, but problem appointments can be scheduled for 15 minutes-30 minutes. This means you get more time with your physician to discuss treatment options and formulate a plan to get you feeling better. In the same vein, don't save up all of your problems for your annual exam; there is only so much we can do in an annual exam. Change your birth control? Yes. Change your birth control, cure your depression, diagnose your infection, and evaluate abnormal bleeding? Not so much. Scheduling the appropriate kind of appointment sets up a "win/win" situation for all involved.
2. Don't expect to get an immediate answer/treatment/cure after one visit. Some problems (like infections) are easy to solve, but some problems are more complex and require data gathering and imaging studies. Your initial appointment may need to be followed by a secondary appointment in order to assimilate information and assess treatment efficacy. You may not have all the answers after seeing your physician one time, but I can assure, you will be headed in a definitive direction for treatment.
3. Don't be rude to the office staff. They are there to do a job, and when you get seen, how you get seen, and certain office policies (like late policies) are totally out of their control. We all work together as a team, and you can bet that if you are a raging b*tch to my MA, I am going to hear about it before I step foot in the room. I can't guarantee a warmed speculum in those cases, either (I KID, NO HATE MAIL, PLEASE!!) On the flip side, if our staff is rude to you we want to know about it, so please share your experience with us.
4. Don't expect your physician to (do even more) work for free. Trust me when I say that much of the "behind the scenes" work that we do goes uncompensated. It is common courtesy to inform you of your lab results over the phone (usually our nurses or clinical staff will do this), however, if you want to discuss the interpretation of your labs or formulate treatment plans based on the lab results? Make an appointment. Physicians' clinical opinions are based upon what we spent years learning; this is our professional service, and we deserve to be compensated for services rendered.
5. Don't attempt to dictate your own treatment. Dr. Google is great for answers in the middle of the night, but printing sheaves of paper dictating how you *think* you should be evaluated/treated is incredibly off-putting. I value an educated patient, and appreciate when my patients "do their homework." This is not the same thing as demanding of a physician a specific test or treatment that you happen to think you may need. We want to collaborate with you about your care, and have spent years of training learning how to do this. Our knowledge is not so easily replaced by We.b.M.D. or W.ik.ipe.d.ia.