Tips for managing your medical appointments

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It can be challenging when managing various appointments and meetings as a person with disability. You may find your life and weekly schedules are incredibly busy due to the number of medical appointments you have to fit in.

Key points:

  • Ask questions when booking appointments to avoid last-minute concerns or challenges
  • Keep your routine in order by managing your appointments through a calendar or diary to plan out your week
  • Record important medical data and questions you want to ask so nothing is missed when you are with the doctor

Then there are the issues of unanswered questions, misplaced important information or forgetting to speak up about certain health issues during a fast-paced appointment. It is all too common to be caught out unprepared for a doctor’s visit.

But there are a number of ways you can plan for your medical appointments, as keeping yourself organised ahead of time means you will avoid unwanted obstacles when attending appointments and looking after your health.

Continue reading to learn more about our tips for managing medical appointments.

Planning ahead is key

When you are first making medical appointments, it is essential you plan ahead to avoid any potential obstacles.

There are a number of ways you can do this, including asking relevant questions when booking appointments.

Some important questions to ask when booking your own appointments include:

  • Can the facility cater to your specific needs? Like accessibility requirements or disability parking
  • Are there any supports available on-site if you are attending on your own, e.g. AUSLAN services?
  • Whether you can have a specific doctor to feel more comfortable, e.g. male or female, or from a similar cultural background to yourself
  • What medical records do you need to bring along?
  • Do you need to book with a General Practitioner (GP) first to secure a referral for specialist services?
  • Whether you can bring a support worker, carer or friend for assistance
  • If you can book a longer timeslot due to complex needs
  • Are there long wait times or delays?
  • Whether you have to ask a previous medical clinic to forward medical records on their behalf
  • Is the appointment bulk-billed?
  • What do you have to do to prepare for a test or scan?

The questions you ask will depend on the type of appointment it is – there are slightly different requirements between a GP, specialist or Allied Health professional.

The receptionist will often provide relevant information as well, so you should be fully prepared for any appointment.

You can always call back and speak to someone if you do have lingering concerns in the meantime.

Maintain an organised schedule

Depending on your disability, you may have to see a range of Allied Health professionals or medical professionals, so you could be juggling a large number of appointments amongst other life commitments.

Arguably the most important step you can take is maintaining organisation of your appointments through a calendar or schedule.

You should plan out your appointments in a way that best suits your needs, as it will avoid double-booking and over-exerting yourself.

Keeping track of your appointments in a diary will also help. Note down relevant details such as the time, location and transport requirements.

For example, if you are catching public transport, can you book multiple appointments on the same day and attend both easily?

You may find there are some appointments you can book back-to-back and others that have to be spread out.

By organising all your appointments and relevant details in your calendar you can manage your schedule in a way that best matches your capabilities.

Document your medical details

Meeting with a new health professional can be a daunting process. You often have to talk through your medical history and tell them your story.

To make the process easier, document your medical details so they have an accessible summary of your current health status. This will help out when you see a new specialist or even a fill-in GP if your regular one is unavailable.

You do not have to provide your medical history in the form of a detailed essay. A series of dot points will get the job done. You can include information such as:

  • Your disability/disabilities and associated medical conditions
  • The current status of your health
  • Any recent changes or new symptoms
  • The medication you use, including supplements
  • Your allergies and how you react to them
  • What medical professionals you are seeing or have seen in the past

This information does not have to be handed out to every medical practitioner you see, either. But it will provide a useful reference point when you need to provide relevant information in a timely manner.

Keep your records in one place

One of the most helpful ways to remain organised is knowing where your medical records are. This way you can easily bring necessary files, referrals, x-rays, scans or test results without worrying about forgetting anything important.

Choose an accessible location that best suits you, such as a filing cabinet, drawer or desk. You can also keep important information like appointment cards and contact numbers in the same location for easy reference.

In terms of medical records, there is a strong chance many of them are already online in health clinic systems. It means any new or existing doctor or specialist can easily access your information.

You can also create a My Health Record account to store all of your medical information.

This system is where health providers and Medicare data can be collated, including your medical health, medicine details and test results. You can access your My Health Record through your personal myGov account to view the available information.

You may or may not have a My Health Record already, depending on if you opted in or not. If you don’t have an account, you can create one here.

Many health professionals work in settings where their information is not connected and they need to send relevant electronic records to other medical professionals. So be sure to ask the receptionist whether you have to approve the transfer of information when booking an appointment.

Write down your major concerns

When you have a limited amount of time with a medical professional, write down your major concerns and questions so you can reference them during the appointment.

Addressing the most important questions means you and your doctor remain focused and you do not leave without speaking about recent health developments or changes you would like to make.

Additionally, if you find yourself feeling anxious when asking specific questions, ask a carer, family member or friend to attend the appointment with you. They can provide a third perspective on any information while ensuring that you do not leave without any lingering questions.

Summarise the appointment outcome

Before you leave, summarise the plan of action with your doctor or specialist. Understanding clear outcomes of the appointment will help you make informed decisions while keeping your doctor accountable for any follow-up work on their end.

As part of this, feel free to take notes during the appointment to avoid missing any important information. You can also refer back to the notes to avoid any misunderstandings.

When you leave a medical appointment, you want to understand:

  • The results from previous tests or scans
  • What happens next (e.g. do you have to see another specialist)
  • If any new medication, what is the new prescription for and what impact should it have?
  • What you should do if any symptoms do not improve or if they worsen
  • When you need to next book an appointment

If there are any questions the doctor cannot answer, note down their response and ask what the next step is. They may consult with a colleague or conduct their own research ahead of future appointments.

Having a concise outcome from your appointment means you can focus on what has to happen ahead of the next one.

Avoiding concerns around any lingering questions you have will ensure you can act on any changes recommended by the doctor or continue with the practices that best support your disability.

What methods do you use to best manage your medical appointments? Share your tips in the comments below.

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