Its about 6-8 minutes. Thats really complicated, especially for people who have chronic diseases and multiple co-morbid conditions to address. I think the best advice to give in this situation is for patients to be really clear when heading into a visit and know what issues they want to discuss, Dr. Thomashow says.
Due to limited time during doctors appointments, often the right questions arent being asked and the time isnt being used in the most effective manner, he explains.
Sometimes, healthcare providers only ask, Hows your breathing? and if thats the question being asked, both the doctor and patient may be misled. Instead, the questions should be, Compared to a year ago, can you do what you could then? or, Do you do what you want to do? Those are more important questions, and the kind I have in mind when going into my appointments, he says.
Dr. Thomashow is highly involved in the COPD Community, demonstrated through his participation in numerous organizations, coalitions and research projects. He is medical director of the Jo-Ann LeBhun Center for Chest Disease on the Columbia campus, was a member of the executive committee of the medical board of the New York-Presbyterian Hospital for most of the last 10 years and chaired the Quality Care Committee for the Society of Practitioners of the Columbia University Medicare Center. He presently chairs the Respiratory Disease Council of the New York-Presbyterian Health Network and co-chairs the New York Presbyterian smoking cessation initiative.
He suggests that patients bring a list of their medications, as well as the actual medications, to their appointments.
This is so the physician knows exactly what youre taking, and can be aware of potential interactions. You should be able to tell your provider if you have specific complaints that youve developed and if youve had any other medical problems occur since the last visit, Dr. ?omashow says. You should talk about how youve been sleeping, eating and exercising. All of these things need to be clearly defined in your head before you head into your office visit. Otherwise, you might only get 1-2 issues addressed and your next appointment wont be for another couple months.
Dr. Barbara Yawn agrees.
You dont want to make a four page list, but write down your top 3-5 questions and concerns. These may include what you know about your activity, medications, or just things you think your doctor should know. If you dont understand something about your medication, ask about it. Think if youve been having any side effects, she says. Are you having more trouble walking then you were 3-6 months ago? Or is it better? Think about these questions in between visits, so that you know when you should be calling the doctor between visits.
Yawn is Director of Research at the Olmsted Medical Center and adjunct professor in the Department of Family and Community Health at the University of Minnesota. She was a rural family physician for 14 years before beginning her research career. Dr. Yawn is past co-chair of the U.S. COPD Coalition and a member of the Minnesota COPD Coalition. She gives many educational talks on COPD and spirometry to her primary care colleagues.
She says its important for individuals with COPD to have a doctor they are comfortable with and whom they trust.
and whom they trust. You want to make sure that your physician is interested in your care, and you can feel that when you go into the office. You dont want to feel part of an assembly line, she says. Patients should ask their doctor what information they need to know about their COPDif its getting worse, better or if new problems arise. This makes it much easier for the next appointment.
It is also important to let your doctor understand what your financial situation is, explains Dr. Thomashow.
If you have 10 prescriptions and cant afford them, tell your doctor. Even if they fall under your coverage plan, you might not be able to afford your co-pay. Those are things physicians might not be aware of. They may be prescribing the medications thinking that you are taking them, when really you dont have the finances to be doing so, Dr. Thomashow says.
Its important to know the differences between healthcare providers when it comes to caring for your COPD.
For newly diagnosed COPD patients, it might be hard to distinguish between doctors and when specific physicians should be contacted.
You need to talk to your physician and pulmonologist and ask them, Who should I call for what? Most of the time, the answer will be your primary care physician. But, if you have severe COPD, you may have to talk directly to your pulmonologist. A respiratory therapist is going to be very helpful with medications, but they dont prescribe medications, Yawn says.
In individuals with COPD, its important to remember that doctors appointments are less of a check-up and more of an evaluation, Yawn says. I encourage people with COPD to ask about pulmonary rehab. Sometimes as doctors we get busy and forget, so you should ask, Should I be going to pulmonary rehab? Where is the nearest one? What kind of follow-up programs do they have? she says. As a physician, I am helping that person and their family learn how to take care of their COPD. My job is to teach, make recommendations and provide support so that you can take care of yourself.
Educating oneself is a great way to supplement doctor visits.
Talking to someone who has this condition is really helpful, and you can do that when youre in pulmonary rehab. Groups [such as the COPD Foundation] can point you in the direction of useful information or make recommendations, she says. This prepares you for your next visit and makes you much more knowledgeable. This way, your questions will be better and you know what youre going to ask.
One helpful tip to remember is to write down questions and answers as they arise, and keep them handy with you to bring to your next appointment. Weve included a tear out sheet that you can put on your refrigerator for quick reference below.