10. Communicating with Healthcare Providers
Getting a new diagnosis can be confusing and overwhelming. Using good communication skills before, during and after medical visits can help you use your time with your health care team wisely so that you can better understand and care for your condition.
Create a visit plan.
- Make a list of all medications you take. Prepare any questions you have about your medications including:
- What is the medication for?
- Can I take the generic version?
- How long should I take it?
- When should I take it?
- What are the side effects?
- Anything I should avoid while taking the medication?
- Make a list of any symptoms you are having
- Prepare lifestyle information for your doctor, including any recent events, changes or habits that affect your health (e.g. taking a new exercise class, relationship disruptions, new caretaking responsibilities)
- Make a list of questions and rank order them so that you have a better chance to get your most important questions answered. This website can help you create and prioritize questions: https://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/question-builder.html
During the visit:
- Take a friend or family member with you to take notes and remind you of topics that you wanted to cover. Otherwise, take notes yourself or record the visit on your phone, (with your doctor’s permission). This may be particularly helpful shortly after your SCAD diagnosis, when there can be a lot of new information about tests, procedures, and medications.
- Be open and honest about the things that are stressful/frightening or confusing to you. The best way for your doctor to help you is to know the complete story!
- Make sure you understand the information the doctor has given you. These three questions can help you to check your understanding:
- What is my main problem?
- What do I need to do?
- Why is it important for me to do this?
- If you don’t understand the answers to any of these questions… Use active listening and clarification! Repeat what your doctor tells you in your own words to make sure you understand what he or she is saying (active listening). For example, say something like: “As I understand it…” or “So what you’re saying is…” followed by a clarifying question (“is that correct?” “Am I missing something?” “And what was the other thing you wanted me to do?”).
- If you don’t understand something once you get home, call your doctor’s office for clarification. You also may want to schedule another appointment if you run out of time.
After the visit:
- Read over your notes or talk with the person you brought to the appointment.
- Make a list of things you need to do (e.g. fill prescriptions, make follow-up appointments)
- Store notes from your visit with your other health information
Getting a second opinion:
There are lots of great cardiologists who don’t know much about SCAD, so getting a second opinion about your diagnosis, treatment, exercise guidelines, or other issues from a SCAD expert might be valuable to both of you. Here are some tips for asking for a second opinion…
- Bring it up with your doctor. You need to send over your medical records, and being upfront about your desire for a second opinion will expedite this process. Furthermore, this will allow the two doctors to communicate and discuss the best plan for you.
- See a doctor from a different institution than your current one.
- Consult your insurance company to check what their coverage is for second opinions. You may have to advocate the necessity of a second opinion for yourself.