Maximizing Your Health CarePrimary health care services for children and adults have a unique opportunity to provide preventive medicine to the healthy and treat the sick via acute and chronic care, while serving as a hub to medical specialties. SLUCare primary care services
provide routine health care, wellness exams, physicals, screening tests and care for acute illnesses and chronic diseases through family and community medicine, general internal medicine, obstetrics, gynecology and women's health, and pediatrics. In addition to a providers' commitment, patients now have an increasing responsibility for their own health care through every day decisions they make about diet, exertise and habits. Given that, how can patients ensure effective collaboration with their primary care providers? It is one thing to leave a doctor's office feeling as if you were understood and that you have the information you need in order to make informed decisions about your health. However, taking an active role in your health care doesn't start and stop at the door to your doctor's office. There are steps you can take before during and after an appointment in order to be an educated consumer.
Before the Appointment
The two often overlooked, but important steps in preparing for a doctor's visit are: identifying the reason for your visit and completing pre-appointment paperwork. When you make a doctor's appointment, make sure the office understands the reason for your visit, such as a new patient visit, a follow up visit, an acute or urgent care appointment, or an annual preventive exam. The type of appointment determines the time the office sets aside and the type of pre-appointment paperwork needed. Before your visit, accurately complete the pre-visit health history questionnaire and other pre-appointment forms to ensure you have time to answer the questions thoroughly.
Medication records are particularly important. To provide your physician an insight into your health condition, potential side effects and drug interactions, document prescription drugs as well as over the counter medications, vitamins, herbs and supplements.
During the Appointment
Once in the doctor's office, update your medical history and medication records with the nurse or medical assistant. Having an accurate starting point helps your provider move forward with your health care. Arrive with a prepared agenda, including the reasons for your visit, curious symptoms, a list of questions you have and your goals.
If you have a new medical concern, your agenda should include details about your symptoms, when they began and anything that seems to improve or worsen the symptoms.
In addition to your physician or nurse practitioner, a secondary provider such as a medical student, resident, or fellow, may see you. Expect your provider(s)to ask questions and examine you. Multiple conditions and symptoms may require more than a single visit.
At the end of the visit, you should understand what you and your doctor discussed well enough to explain to someone else what your medical problem is, what you need to do about it and why you need to address it. If the doctor orders tests or labs, ask why, what he or she is looking for, what the test feels like and what follow-up to expect afterward. If you do not understand your medical condition, ask questions and take notes.
After the Appointment
Taking responsibility for your health after a doctor's appointment includes doing any "homework" the doctor assigned, learning more and following up. If tests or labs are ordered, schedule them promptly. If the doctor wants you to monitor your weight, exercise, blood pressure or health habits, follow the instructions. When prescribed medication, know why, take it as directed, watch for potential side effects and know how to recognize when the medication is working. When appropriate, follow up with the office on test results and research your conditions using reputable sources, starting with references the office has given you or using services available at your local library. Learn about your electronic health records: know where to find your records, how to access them and check them regularly. Electronic health records facilitate collaboration between your health care providers and you, the patient.
SLUCare Primary Care Services
SLUCare primary care providers serve patients through several departments in convenient locations throughout the St. Louis area:
• The Department of Family Medicine provides patients with primary care and preventive services at the SLUCare Doctors Office Building, University Tower, and SLUCare Des Peres. Appointments can be made by calling 977-4700 (Doctors Office Building and University Tower) or 977-9600 (Des Peres).
• The Division of General Internal Medicine offers acute care appointments (same-day visits), ongoing care of chronic complex medical conditions, primary care and preventive services. The Division has outpatient offices at the SLUCare Doctors Office Building, University Tower, and SLUCare Des Peres. Appointments can be made by calling 977-6100 (Doctors Office Building and University Tower) or 977-9600 (Des Peres).
• The Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women's Health provides multidisciplinary primary care and specialty services for women in the Women's Heath Pavilion at SSM St. Mary's Health Center, St. Luke's Hospital and Saint Louis University Hospital. Appointment can be made by calling 977-4440.
• The Department of Pediatrics serves children and teenagers at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Health Center and several community locations, including: St. Anthony's Medical Center, St. Luke's Hospital, SSM St. Joseph Hospital West and Anderson Hospital. Primary care and specialty care appointments can be made by calling 577-5600.