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Making the most of your doctor visit

By Cherie Binns

How can you get the most out of your precious few minutes at a healthcare visit and still get your needs met and concerns addressed? MS Focus recently presented a webinar on that topic that is available on sound cloud and our YouTube channel. A visit tool was introduced in that webinar and is available via email from support@msfocus.org. The visit tool is editable and contains your contact info in a letterhead format. Under this, tick in the date of the visit and name of the provider. Then list all of your medications, dosages, and frequencies as well as any supplements you take with dose and frequency. Feel free to list the reason for use of the supplement and what benefit, if any, you have seen with its use. 

Below this section, list any concerns you are bringing to the visit. For example, your spasticity might be poorly controlled and your dose of baclofen is near its max so you might mention that it is not controlling the spasticity well. Write a sentence about what that looks like for you. Are you losing sleep because of discomfort? Are the side effects of the medicine causing too much sleepiness and brain fog? Or perhaps you are having trouble completing your work because of fatigue or cognitive issues. Lay your concerns out in a sentence or two on that form. Try to keep your concerns to only two or three of what is most troubling to you. Any more than that and you should probably schedule another appointment to address further issues.

Next ask two or three concise questions you need answers to before you leave. These need to be related to the concerns that you have listed. Print two copies of this sheet and give one to the doctor (or nurse practitioner or physician assistant) and keep one for you so that both of you have in front of you what needs to be focused on in the visit and neither is too tempted to move away from these concerns and questions until what is on that page has been addressed. This form is also adaptable to specialty visits, dental, pharmacy, primary care, pediatric and more so don’t be afraid to use it as a guide and make it work on your behalf in any number of healthcare encounters.

Regarding telehealth visits, several tips were solicited from people who care for those with multiple sclerosis:
  1. Never do a telehealth visit while driving. It is dangerous as your full attention is not on the road.
  2. Never do a telehealth visit in a public place. Noise and other people are distracting and your privacy is compromised. 
  3. If possible, position your camera so your whole body may be viewed or have a family member or friend there to hold the camera in the event your provider needs to see how you walk or whether you are able to stand without assistance.
  4. Check your connection a few minutes before the visit so if you are unable to connect, you can call the office for technical assistance.
  5. At the time of your appointment, log in and stay on the line until your provider arrives. Plan ahead so you have what you need for that visit just as if you were there in person.

From Dr. Ben Thrower, if you are using any cannabis products, be sure to enter them under the medication column in the tool. What strain do you use? What strength? What form do you take it in (edible, inhaled, etc.)? Eighty years ago when these products were in regular use to manage symptoms, there was a decent working knowledge of what to use for which symptoms but that knowledge has not been well preserved in the interim when these products were illegal. Tell your provider what you take. What effect does it have? Have your symptoms improved or worsened with use? Do you need additional suggestions for use? All of us need to feel free to add to the current body of knowledge on this category of symptom management medication and willingly share the benefits (or drawbacks) as we experience them.