What you should bring to your routine physical

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Whether you're a returning patient or a new one, it's always a good idea to be prepared before heading to a routine physical.

We asked local physicians what patients should do to make it easier for the physician to give proper medical care and advice and speed up appointment times. Their advice? Come prepared with questions, documents and call ahead.

A physical can mean different things to different people. For women, Eileen Rice, registered nurse and director of clinical operations at the Battenkill Valley Health Center in Arlington, Vt., suggests mentioning work done with specialists or when the last time tests such as a Pap smear or breast exam have been done. That goes for men, as well, who have had a colonoscopy, prostate exam or a testicular cancer screening.

"Some people who've had problems with a colonoscopy and need a repeat scheduled — we don't have a part in that or we might get a letter that they need to come back," Rice said. "It's important for the person to keep track of visits with another person to not duplicate tests."

During the weeks leading up to your appointment, Rice suggests writing down questions and any pains you have recently noticed. She said mental lists are mostly forgotten when the doctor or nurse is covering other topics.

Toward the end of high school and in preparation for college, most teens make the transition from a pediatrician to a primary care office. When faced with filling out forms or answering medical history questions, Rice said, they often have to "call mom."

"Their immunization record [is important] because a lot of times when they get here, they need something and the college has the record and high school has it, but they can't get a hold of it while they're here and we don't want to give a shot if they just had one," she said. "The second thing that's really critical is what their allergies are. I can't tell you how many times I sit down and [kids] say 'I know I'm allergic to something, let me call my mom.'"

Dr. Kim Fodor, medical director of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center's Internal Medicine in Bennington, Vt., encourages her younger patients to ask their parents for all the information they need before and to write down allergies, medications and family history. She said she wants her patients to present their questions, concerns and what they want to cover during the appointment at the very beginning and even inform the nurse, because often patients leave their lists until the end of the appointment and there isn't enough time.

If you're a new patient, know that more arrangements need to be made, including transferring medical records, an insurance check and a call ahead for laboratory work, if necessary. Fodor said it can sometimes take up to a month to complete a record request between practices.

Dr. Mehernosh Khan, a primary care physician with Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Mass., advises you to call and check on your medical records to make sure they're transferred. It also doesn't hurt to show up early to update insurance, with the physical insurance cards, he added.

"Make a list of priorities. New patients expect all problems to be met on the first visit, I do a meet-and-greet, go through prescriptions, then set up an annual exam," Khan said. "If they understand that there's a finite time to the visit of what needs to be covered, then it will go smoothly."

—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.


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