Here are some tips to mistake-proof your medical care:
• Keep track of your own medical records. We no longer live in an era where we have just one primary-care provider for our entire lives. The more doctors we see, the more information is lost in the shuffle.
Come to your doctor's visit prepared with copies of medical records, recent test results and family-history information.
Come to your doctor's visit prepared with copies of medical records, recent test results and family history information. Your doctor will have a better picture of your previous medical care and can keep it in mind for future treatment.
Also, consider carrying an emergency health information card with you at all times, which lists up-to-date medical conditions, medications, family history, emergency contacts, allergies, immunization status and information on advance directives.
• Trust your instincts and ask questions. Medicine is a fast-paced field, with advancements and discoveries happening by the minute. If you see something in the news that might apply to your care, write it down and ask about it on your next visit. If you experience any strange symptoms throughout the year, make sure you ask about those as well.
• Talk with your doctor about which tests are right for you. Age, race, lifestyle, family history and insurance coverage all play a role in determining what tests a doctor will automatically administer. Don't be afraid to ask for the most advanced tests available today.
• Learn to monitor and manage your health care. For the 364 days of the year between doctor's visits, you must be responsible for your own health. Use this time to set up and keep track of target goals.
• Follow up on test results! It's a good idea to give your doctor's office a self-addressed, stamped envelope so all results can be mailed directly to you. If you don't receive results within three weeks, give your doctor's office a polite call to follow up with your care.
Marie Savard, M.D., is an author, internist and an expert on women's health.