Nothing worries a parent more than when one of their children becomes severely ill or disabled virtually overnight. It becomes increasingly frustrating when the doctors can’t figure out what is wrong. This is my world today. One day, out of what appears to be nowhere, one of my children lost almost all use of her legs and needs a wheelchair to get around.
One trip to the emergency room, one trip to the neurologist, one trip to the general practitioner, one CT scan, EKG, EEG, MRI, blood work and ultrasound later and we are still no closer to having an answer. What we do know is that it’s not meningitis or some other infection, brain tumor, brain hemorrhage or diabetes.
No matter how many times I have had to navigate the world of medicine while working toward a diagnosis, be it autism, celiac or Grave’s Disease, it never gets easier. I have, however, discovered a few things that makes my life simpler since I have so many doctors and appointments to keep track of. Some of these things I had to learn the hard way.
1. This seems like a simple enough thing to do, but always make sure you get appointment cards. Doctors offices don’t always call with reminders and when you are negotiate a lot of appointments with different doctors the appointment cards always help. It also helps to have a small day planer or pocket calender that you can carry with you where you can tell you doctor when you have a certain test or procedure scheduled. Even if you put this information in your phone or PDA write it down somewhere as well. This will also prevent you from scheduling two doctors appointments at the same time.
2. Get one of your doctors cards, in fact, get one from each of your doctors, and keep them in your car. Having one of our neurologists cards in our car saved us a lot of grief on our last trip to the emergency room. If you ever end up at the emergency room it’s easier to give them your doctors card than trying to remember their phone number or where they are located. It is also helpful to put all this information into your phone or PDA where you have names, addresses, phone and fax numbers of your doctors when filling out medical paperwork.
3. When you get your medications filled many pharmacies leave a number of small stickers on the sheet that they staple to your prescription bag. One of those usually contains nothing more than your name, the name of prescription and dosage. Pull one of those off the sheet for each prescription you have and stick them inside your day planer or pocket calender where you are writing down appointments. This is something that is easy enough for a doctor to photocopy for his records. Also, don’t forget to write down your pharmacy phone number with this information.
4. Ask for copies of all test results and keep them in a folder. You never know who they could help out. You will be able to take those copies with you for any specialist that you need to go see. This saves time for everyone. People won’t have to wait for faxes to be sent and received and you won’t have to make extra trips to deliver needed test results.
5. If your doctor wants an MRI make sure you ask him if he wants to see the images. It could save you a trip later. Some radiology departments send you with but most will only send over the report. The last MRI that we had done we were given two disks with all the films on it, one for each doctor that wanted to see the results.
6. If you end up having a specialist order tests, make sure that your primary care physician gets sent copies of the results. This is easy enough to request to have done. This makes it easier to coordinate care and it also keeps your primary doctor informed of what is going on.
7. Even if your insurance company doesn’t require referrals for specialists, make sure you get one. Many doctors now require them even when insurance companies don’t. Not having that referral can hold up getting appointments scheduled.
8. Double check with your insurance, either by calling them or using your provider directory, that the specialist you are going to takes your insurance. Do NOT take the word of the receptionist at the doctors office to know what insurance they take. Most doctors will take most insurance plans but those working at the doctors office have no idea of knowing if they are in network or out of network for your insurance provider and plan. Checking with your insurance company directly can prevent you from ending up with surprise medical bills. This happened to me earlier this year and I ended up with a $1000 bill for an office visit where I wasn’t told anything I didn’t already know. If your primary care physician wants you to see someone who doesn’t take your insurance, provide him with a list of names of those who do and ask him to send you to one of that does.
9. If you have to change an appointment, DO NOT wait until the last minute to call the doctors office. Many offices are now not only charging up to $50 for missed appointments but not giving 24 hours notice as well.
To save time when getting lab work done, see if you can schedule an appointment with the lab. If you can’t do this, call before you go to find out how long of a wait you have. I ended up sitting in a very crowded lab waiting room once with three kids for an hour and a half because they were that busy. We have now gotten in the habit of going a few minutes out of our way to a lesser know lab facility that is in an odd location because it’s not as “popular” because in the end it ends up saving us a lot of time and aggravation.
10. For procedures like MRI’s and Ultrasounds, if your doctor is in a hurry to get the results, have his office make the appointment for you or write STAT on the request. This can prevent you from having to wait two weeks for an appointment.
11. Make sure to keep your information updated through your human resources department at work for your insurance and check it every so often to make sure everything is right. A typo or outdated information can make getting a pre-authorization for a procedure difficult and it can also cause your insurance to deny your medical claims. One of my old insurance companies was very surprised when they received a bill for labor and delivery for someone named George. It took me sitting on hold for 45 minutes and another hour on the phone with the customer service representative only to be told that the doctor was going to have to resubmit the claim with the typo fixed.
12. When you go in for diagnostic procedures, never assume that the technician who is doing the testing knows what kind of preparation you were supposed to make prior. By letting her know you can prevent some unnecessary discomfort. This even goes for ultrasounds. The technician who was doing the abdominal, renal and pelvic ultrasound had no idea she was told to drink 24 ounces of water an hour before hand. She started the ultrasound with my daughters liver and was leaving the bladder and kidneys for last until my daughter told her that she really needed the bathroom. The ultrasound technician had no idea that she was told to show up with a full bladder.
13. If you wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace you may want to think about replacing it with a Medic Tag. It’s a little USB flash drive that you wear around your neck that contains everything that doctors and rescue workers would need in an emergency such as emergency contact information of your family and your doctors, all medical conditions, prescriptions you are taking and all of your allergies.