When Switching Doctors: How to Handle Your Records & New Intake
Every year, many Americans are forced to change insurance companies. Sometimes you are forced to change your care providers and specialists because of new insurance choices about who to include in your plan, as well as who not to include on those plans.
It's frustrating, it's emotional, and for those of us living with chronic disease, it's terrifying to switch doctors. You felt comfortable with your old doc and you built a rapport and trust with them. So how do you manage all of your care when you have to start over at a new hospital, new clinic or outpatient/home care setting, or supply company?
Keep a copy of your medical history
Be sure to ALWAYS have current copies of your medical history including from any hospitalizations, all surgeries and follow up notes, as well as diagnostic tests and ultimately, any notes about your diagnosis(ses). I have a Rubbermaid tote in my storage that has each of my scope series from each year. It's helped me understand more about the location and severity of my disease, and what organs it has and is currently affecting. Diagnostic imaging results are not always attainable, but be sure to do your best to capture the best picture of what those results were. You may have to dig and click many boxes, but it's worth it.
It wasn't until I had a switch in doctors within my own practice that I finally took it upon myself to ask all hospitals where I've been admitted for copies of reports from all procedures, tests, and all imaging results. I took it upon myself to decipher what was really the culprit and that helped me prepare me to ask for help with certain things from my next doctor. The first step is educating yourself the best you can, so that you are able to come up with good discussion questions and items you may be wondering about, especially after you've left an appointment.
Bring questions for your new doctor
Bring questions. Don't bring a laundry list of issues, rather slim your questions down to 2-3 of your biggest concerns so that when you meet your new care team, you feel confident in asking the professionals for assistance to find/maintain remission.
What do you want to get out of your meeting with your doctors? It's most important to think about this before stepping into the physician/care provider's room. Is pain your main complaint? Fatigue? Questions about your blood work? Ask.
Be clear when you tell them what specialists/care providers you're seeing and for what. Don't leave any medications out and, if you need to, write them down. (No matter how many times you go through your "settling in" part of your appointment, there will likely always be one prescription/supplement mistake). Be educated about the medications that you are on and ask questions if you are feeling uncertain or not as confident as you feel you should.
Research your current and future therapies
Discussing therapies can be difficult for many of us patients. Reading up and researching the treatment you'd like to potentially try is a good idea. Being prepared in that aspect will allow you to ask your GI/specialist specific questions regarding that therapy, whether it be an oral medication, infusion, injection, etc.
The most important part of changing doctors or practices is to just be honest and be yourself. You will build the best rapport with your care team if you collaborate with them to develop the best plan to treat your IBD and determine what your course of treatment will be. It's always nice to have someone to fall back on when plan A fails. Use your doctor as a resource and problem solve if A happens, then we can fall back on B.
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