Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.See all posts »
Consulting with a Cardiologist
What you need to know for your first appointment.
As a cardiologist, I see patients in the office most days of the week. I find this part of my practice both challenging and rewarding. If you are seeing me or another cardiologist for the first time, it helps to know what to expect, and what is expected of you. What that in mind, I’ve created this checklist which will help your first appointment go as smoothly, efficiently, and productively as possible.
- Insurance coverage. If this is your first visit, be sure that the doctor’s services are covered by your insurance company. Many practices, including mine, will get preauthorization prior to the visit, but some may not. It’s best to avoid unpleasant surprises. Not all will take Medicare and Medicaid, so inquire ahead of time. If you don’t have insurance, be sure to check about payment plans ahead of time. Often, the doctor’s group will be able to work with you to discount and spread out payments on a schedule that works for you.
- Arrive on time. I can’t stress how important this is. When a patient is late, there is usually no way to catch up, and the rest of the day’s schedule runs behind.
- Medications list. Bring all of your current medications, including any supplements or herbs, with you. Also, bring a list of any allergies you might have.
- Medical records. If you have any medical records, bring those with you as well. It helps if you give them to the assistant that brings you to the examining room. That way, he or she can give them to the doctor to review before meeting you.
o If this is a second opinion, it’s especially important that medical records are available. That may include a DVD with a copy of any imaging studies (including cardiac catheterization pictures). I often can’t give an educated opinion without this information.
- Bring a list of questions. It’s best if the list is not excessively lengthy, so the doctor can focus on perhaps one to four issues that concern you the most. Try to be as clear and concise as possible.
- Be honest. If you smoke, use illicit drugs, or drink to excess, your cardiologist needs to know that, since it can impact not only your health, but your body’s reaction to medications.
- Strong relationship. Just like all of us, doctors come in all types. If you don’t feel that you can have a good working relationship with your new doctor, it makes sense to move on to someone you feel more confident about and more comfortable with.
- Your time. Above all, remember that this visit is all about you. Let your doctor know about any symptoms you might have, even if they seem trivial or embarrassing. If you don’t want to follow his or her advice, or are leery of a new prescription, speak up. Often there is more than one option for evaluating or treating a given problem.
- Follow through. Your doctor wants to give you the best care possible, but the follow-through is up to you.
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