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Make doctor visits count with these tips

Drs. Fuad and Adnaan Sheriff, of Amherst Medical Associates, gave the following tips to get the information and insight you need from your primary care visit.

Contact the right office: Specialists handle serious, specific health concerns; primary care doctors are better equipped to handle overall health and refer care to the right specialists where needed.

Prepare a list of questions: "I love it when patients have a list of questions,” Adnaan Sheriff said. “It really makes time efficient because they prioritize what's important for them."

Know your medications: Carry a list and keep it updated or, better yet, bring your pill bottles to primary care appointments. That's the best way for a primary care provider to determine whether a patient is taking two or more of the same kind of medication, or something that conflicts with another drug. This, Fuad Sheriff said, can cause medical complications and unnecessary emergency room visits.

Keep a simple list of your medical history: Include kinds and dates of surgeries, and major diagnostic procedures including colonoscopies, mammograms, as well as dates of blood work and immunizations. The growing use of electronic medical records likely includes most of your medical history but is only as good as the providers expected to input information. Your involvement could help avoid duplicating tests.

Don’t be shy: A primary care doctor can help improve your life if you’re willing to be open about your medical concerns, even if they might seem embarrassing or trivial. “In this new health care model, we expect not only agency and responsibility on the part of doctors, but were also expecting accountability and agency on the part of the patient,” said Michael W. Cropp, president and CEO of Independent Health.

Take notes: "If you have trouble remembering something, write it down,” Adnaan Sheriff said. Primary care providers also encourage those with chronic and more demanding medical needs to bring a friend or loved one to appointments for the same reason. “We can also provide visit summaries at the end of visits,” Sheriff said. “You can ask for one."

Be invested in your care: "I always tell my patients, 'I can only do so much on my end. You have to do your homework at home,'" Adnaan Sheriff said. That includes taking medications as prescribed, exercising, eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol and never smoking.


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