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 In Ask an Expert, Family Medicine, Pulse Blog

Working with a primary care provider can help you protect your health today and in the future. Internists, family medicine doctors, and their teams build relationships with their patients, helping them: notice problems before they become serious, manage chronic conditions, and get essential preventive care. Below, Dr. Ololade Longe, a Family Medicine Department physician at Vancouver Clinic, discusses how to get the most out of your first primary care visit.

Q: What should patients do to prepare for their visit?

Dr. Longe: If patients have records from providers who aren’t in the clinic it’s good for them to arrange to have them sent over beforehand. If I already know a little bit about their previous diagnoses, what labs to order, and what immunizations are due, then we have more time to talk about their current health concerns.

Q: What should patients bring to their first appointment?

Dr. Longe: All their medications—in their original pill bottles. This allows me to check that their prescriptions are still appropriate and that the dose is correct. Because a medicine can be used to treat multiple conditions, it also helps for patients to be able to explain why they are taking each one.

Q: What questions should patients be prepared to answer?

Dr. Longe: I usually want to know about a patient’s past medical history, surgical history, and family history. I like to know if they are up-to-date on things like vaccines and colonoscopies, and if they’ve ever had an abnormal screening result. This tells me what patients are at risk for, what preventive tests are necessary, and what diagnoses are most likely.

I also need to know things like sexual history or preferences and drug use. And also if they are in a domestic violence situation. I have some patients when I ask them about their illicit drug use they tense up. Any substance can affect prescriptions. I’m not going to report them. But I can’t protect them medically or get them help unless they are honest.

Q: As a doctor, what is your goal with this first visit?

Dr. Longe: My goal is to get an understanding of who patients are are medically and socially. I want them to gauge if I am I the right person for them. Are they going to feel comfortable opening up to me? It’s really a “getting to know you” visit. I also want to know about anything pressing so I can address it. What I can’t do is take care of a laundry list of problems. Every problem requires a long list of questions to get a picture of what’s going on. And I want to give each problem the attention it needs so I can help solve it properly. If patients have a lot of concerns then we need to schedule a follow-up visit.

Q: What should patients look for in a primary care doctor?

Dr. Longe: They should make sure this is someone they want to keep seeing. Does this provider listen? Maintain good eye contact? Take symptoms seriously? Make them feel comfortable? Act confident? Do they like the way the staff treats them? I think the initial visit is really important. You can’t ever take back the first time meeting someone.

Q: Do you have any recommendations specific to a patient’s experience at Vancouver Clinic?

Dr. Longe: There are several things all patients can do to make sure they maximize time with their provider:

  • Know their clinic location and how to get there
  • Arrive 15 minutes before their scheduled appointment time
  • Bring their insurance information and identification
  • Bring any paperwork they were sent and make sure it’s completed beforehand.

All of these things help appointments run smoothly and give providers and patients the most time to discuss concerns. Afterward, patients should be sure to sign up for MyChart (mychart.tvc.org), which allows them schedule visits, email questions, see lab results, and request prescription refills online.

Learn about Vancouver Clinic providers online at tvc.org/providers. To make an appointment, call 360-882-2778.

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