By: Dale J. Buchberger, PT , DC, CSCS
If you’ve had to visit a health care provider for any reason in the last 5 years you may have noticed a few things that differ from years ago. The first thing is that the initial paperwork has become increasingly complicated. It’s not enough to provide your name, address, phone number and insurance card. Because the insurance industry has become more complicated than getting a masters degree, the office paperwork has become equally as complicated. Today the paperwork is comprised of several sections. Usually you provide your demographic information such as name address, phone number, email and insurance information.
Your family and medical history is of major importance. In order to start your visit off right, arrive early with your paperwork filled out completely. Arriving at your appointment time is as good as arriving late. Your appointment time is the time your visit is supposed to begin or your face-to-face time with the provider. The front desk staff needs to scan your insurance card, finalize your chart and look through the various sections of your paperwork. After the front desk takes and reviews your information, the provider needs to have a few minutes to look through your medical history. If you don’t provide the office with necessary time to perform their duties you risk having to reschedule your appointment, which would be an understandable inconvenience. But if you are late, that means everyone else in that office for the rest of the day is late.
When a health care provider is trying to figure out your problem there are many clues in the family and past medical history that can help. It is vital to provide this information in detail. Providing your history of medications and surgeries as well as your family history can narrow the thought process and give the provider the best chance of helping you. Omitting information because you don’t think it is important or you are getting tired of filling out the paper work will not improve your chance of getting the answers you are seeking. Give yourself enough time to fill out the paperwork completely. In todays electronic age you can get your paperwork packet from an office website, have it emailed, mailed by postal service or even stop in and pick it up ahead of time. Filling it out at home gives you the best opportunity to fill it out completely and correctly.
A good portion of the initial paperwork is dedicated to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 or HIPAA. This is a government-mandated regulation and was put in place for your protection. After the HIPAA section there is usually a lengthy section on office financial policies. Between private policies, Medicare, workers’ compensation and liability policies there are many different regulations and payment arrangements. Regardless of your agreement with your carrier, the patient is ultimately responsible for their financial standing with the healthcare office. Most offices work well with the various carriers but, it’s up to the patient to ensure that payment is made. Most financial agreements merely have you recognize this fact.
Once the provider has reviewed your information they will begin your face-to-face visit. You will be asked several questions pertaining to your primary complaint. You should be ready to answer these questions as directly and succinctly as possible. Providing answers like “I don’t know” or, “I am never able to answer that” only prolongs the visit and does nothing to help the provider help you, which is why you are in their office to begin with. In some ways it is good to rehearse the facts about your problem before your visit. Practice answering questions such as: when did it start, how did it start, how long has it been there, what makes it better or worse, is your pain local to an area or does it radiate into the arms or legs, does it affect your sleep, does it prevent your normal activities, have you lost work time, etc. You will be asked to quantify your pain by a numerical scale of 0-10. Zero meaning no pain and ten meaning the worst possible pain you have ever experienced. Many patients have trouble with this but, it is imperative to monitoring progress and many insurance carriers use this as a guideline to ration out healthcare provisions.
Once the provider has this information they can tailor an examination to match your problem. Matching the examination results to the information you provided, can lead to an accurate diagnosis. Once an accurate diagnosis is made, the provider can then develop a treatment plan based on their knowledge level and your current level of functional ability. Getting the answers that will lead to a successful outcome starts with you providing a complete, detailed and accurate medical history.