Editor’s note: This is the second of two Prairie Doc columns by St. Samantha Darnall-Werlinger about making the most of visits to the doctor.
As a patient, it can be challenging to navigate the health care system. Here are a few tips.
After your visit, your physician may order blood work, X-rays or a scan of your body. If the concern is acute or potentially a threat to your immediate health, you might be asked to wait for your results in the clinic. Normally, patients can leave and await their results from home.
If the physician has requested a follow-up appointment, please schedule prior to your departure. We highly encourage this step as the schedules fill up very quickly.
Nowadays, many health institutions offer an application for your phone or computer to track your information at the touch of a button. While this is incredibly convenient, it can also create anxiety.
If an abnormal result occurs, please wait patiently to hear from the clinic. We are performing many tasks and seeing patients during the day. It may take time to hear from us. Depending on your preference, you will receive either a phone call or message from the doctor or nurse on your results along with what to do with the information. More serious results will likely come from the doctors themselves. The majority of the results and information will be relayed to you from the nursing staff.
Messages and questions
With these new apps, many patients have the option to message their physician with questions and concerns. The questions go to a pool being covered by a litany of clinic staff. They will use their knowledge to help with the concern or question.
When necessary, the staff will forward it to the physician. Depending on the institution, we may have 24 to 72 hours to respond. If your question involves symptoms like chest pain or shortness of breath, do not message us. Please call the clinic to speak with a nurse, call 911 or proceed to the emergency room.
Refilling your prescriptions
There’s nothing more frustrating than going to the pharmacy and find there are no refills available on medications. Most health care systems likely have a timeframe set for when medications are required to be sent, and the average is about 24 to 48 hours.
That being said, please watch your medication supply carefully. When you have five to seven days left, call your pharmacy and request a refill, send a request via your application or call the clinic. Please plan accordingly around vacations, travel and holidays. If available, sign up for your pharmacy’s notification system for your convenience. This will ensure timely refills so you do not go without your medications or make unnecessary trips to the pharmacy.
In closing, health care systems are very busy entities providing care to thousands of patients simultaneously through various avenues. I’m hoping this column can give patients some insight and assistance on how to navigate the systems and get the most seamless care.
Dr. Samantha Darnall-Werlinger is a family medicine physician with a special interest in obstetrics. She practices at Sanford Health Watertown Clinic in Watertown.