Not sure why it's taken me so long to write this but after the 4 new patients on Friday who presented close to empty-handed, I feel compelled.
This list is most relevant for the 1st appointment, and it's written as it will help you, as a patient, get the most of the consultation. It will also help your rheumatologist to perform at their best. At least, this is what will work for me:
A List of all your medications
Name, dosage, times a day. Include supplements. Best if listed neatly on a piece of paper. This is preferable than bringing a bag of tablets & capsules, some in their boxes, some free of packaging.
Either is preferable to trying to describe verbally the pills - "it's round and yellow in colour...."
If you have a chronic condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, a list of previous medications used and why they were stopped will help. For eg, "Methotrexate - stopped due to headaches". You're going to be asked by the rheumatologist anyway.
A list of medications is gold! Allows your rheumatologist to make an educated guess about your medical problems even if you aren't sure about them.
Bring all investigations you may have
Blood test results are really useful. I waste a large part of the consultation trying to ring around various labs chasing these. A big frustration.
While many patients do bring reports of radiological examination, it would be nice if you could bring the actual films. I don't pretend to be a radiologist but there are times when a different eye will pick different things up, particularly if the consultation provides different clues.
You may be carrying lots of films and the rheumatologist may not bother to look at them if deemed not so relevant. It's however better to bring more than less.
Other test results such as nerve conduction studies, nuclear medicine scans, etc are equally useful.
Copies of letters from other doctors
If you do have these, bring them! Even if what you are seeking is a second opinion because you aren't so happy with your current doctor, letters they have written can help flesh out the medical history. The new doctor you are consulting will not necessarily just jump to the same diagnoses or just side with their colleague if that is what you are worried about.
More information, rather than less, is crucial to make the most educated and appropriate decision.
The Referral Letter
In Australia, this is a necessity for Medicare compliance, and allows subsidies paid for by the government. We have found that some GPs and GPs staff get annoyed when either the patient or our staff have to ring up to obtain a valid referral.
It's also useful so that your rheumatologist has the correct name and contact details to send their report to.
Some referral letters contain useful information such as an updated list of medications, or some crucial bit of information that you, the patient, may have forgotten or not understood to be important.
I hope this post is helpful. I'd be interested to get your opinions as patients.
I'd also love to hear from the doctors reading this. Is there anything else you would love for your patients to bring?