Written by Dr. Bonnie Eilen, Westmed OB/GYN :
In the new computer age, which can sometimes be frustrating for both doctor and patient, there are still ways to optimize your encounter with your physician. The time goes oh so quickly, and you might find yourself remembering the things you have forgotten to ask by the time you get back to the parking lot. The annual gynecological exam, different from an appointment for a problem or a follow-up, generally has three parts, and your participation is the key to making it a pleasant and helpful experience.
The first part of the exam is to catch up on the last year. Your doctor will need to know if there have been any changes over the past year in medications, allergies, family history, surgeries and/or medical diagnoses. It is quite easy to forget something “new” that happened 10 months ago if you don’t keep a medical record. It is very helpful to keep your own medical records of doctor visits, procedures and medications, either in a notebook or smartphone.
The second part is the exam itself. Your physical will include the nurse taking your blood pressure and weight. Your gynecologist will do the breast and pelvic exam. A Pap smear and possibly a rectal exam is included as needed.
The third part of the visit is to answer any of your questions, renewing or prescribing medications, giving you instructions on preventive health issues and answering your questions. You can also let your doctor know if he/she can contact you through the patient portal or if you prefer a phone call.
This is a lot to accomplish, and you can act not only as a facilitator, but also as a partner in your healthcare if you follow these easy steps:
To Be a GYN Healthcare Partner
- Take a look at the information included in your own personal My Westmed online portal pages. You can briefly glance at your chart and see if anything needs to be changed, removed or updated.
- In addition, it’s important to keep a written record either in a notebook or a page in your smartphone including the dates of your last mammography, colonoscopy and bone density–especially if they were done outside of Westmed.
- Keep a list of your family history for at least first- and second-degree relatives and keep them updated. It will enable your physician to order appropriate testing.
- Also, please keep a record of surgeries, including dates.
- For patients of any age up through menopause, it’s important to let the doctor or nurse know your last menstrual period and if there are any changes in your period.
For new patients:
- Obtaining your previous GYN medical records is necessary.
- Write down your current concerns and questions BEFORE you come to the office. Your physician might change some things at the exam depending upon what you are currently worried about.
- Let the doctor know the brand of the birth control pill you are taking to facilitate refills.
- If there is a new method of birth control you might wish to use, this would be the time to discuss it with the doctor.
Being prepared and being a partner in your visit will not only make things easier for your physician, but it will greatly increase your satisfaction and optimization of your preventive healthcare. It also gives us time to chat about important things, like children, grandchildren, hobbies and work.