I’ve got 99 problems, and 95 of them were appointments this year. With eight to ten appointments a month and usually two appointments a week, balancing appointments can start taking over your life.
I’ve realized that my appointments will always be late, last a long time and I will have unexpected visits to the ER, clinic and my rheumatologist. Here’s what I do to maximize my time and still look after my health.
1. I keep an organized appointment calendar (or app). There are various apps built to organize appointments if your phone calendar starts to have a dot on every day!
2. I put all my doctors into my contacts list, instead of not having their business card when I need it (because I will need to book an appointment when I forgot that business card at home). I include the name, specialty and clinic address for the doctors I don’t see as often. This also includes the pharmacy, doctors secretary, biologic nurse and drug company nurse. Buy a business card holder to keep track of all of your business cards at home in an organized fashion.
3. I keep a list of my medications, dosage and how often I take them on my phone. This can also include allergies. Rheumatologists or new doctors will likely ask for a medication list. This way I don’t need to remember the spelling.
4. I bring a book. You know your appointment is going to be late. Might as well come prepared with something you enjoy! I bought an e-reader that is small and lightweight just for this purpose.
5. I book appointments early in the morning before the doctors get behind schedule. Many clinics are open at 7:30 a.m. This may seem early at the time, but it is worth it if you can get in, get out and where you need to be.
6. I avoid booking appointments around rush hour! A 3 p.m. appointment sounds great until you’re stuck in traffic from 4 to 5 p.m. on your way home.
7. I learned that it’s OK to not settle for the appointment they give me and ask for a date that works for me. Call and re-schedule if an appointment interferes with something more important. Just remember that some doctors charge if you cancel after the 24-hour period.
8. I book multiple appointments on one day, close together or near the same location. If an appointment has to disrupt two hours, might as well make it three. Clumping appointments creates full days without being disturbed.
9. I book blood work online instead of waiting for hours at a drop-in lab. I find what labs are the least busy. Many hospitals have public labs nobody knows about and some pediatric hospitals accept adult patients.
10. Some drop-in clinics have also started taking appointments. I can also call ahead and see how busy certain clinics are or ask when the best time to come in is.
11. I look up ER wait times online before I go. Six hours or three hours is a huge difference. Remember that there may be alternate options to the ER like urgent care centers or after-hour clinics.
12. I find a family doctor that will fit me in after hours. Sometimes you need to pull the “I’m immune suppressed and I need to be seen today.” Making friends with the secretary is a must.
13. Some practices are open on evenings and weekends! Instead of missing school or work, start finding offices that work around your schedule.
14. I refill prescriptions online and have them text once my drugs are ready! I don’t waste time going into the pharmacy to refill drugs and waiting to pick them up. See if the pharmacy can fax a refill request to your doctor so you don’t need to book an appointment once your prescription has run out.
15. I stopped playing telephone tag. This means being mindful that the secretary will take lunch from 12 to 1 p.m. at the same time you are trying to book an appointment. Call early in the morning (to catch them before it gets busy) and leave a time you are available to talk. I’ve yet to come across very many secretaries that are around the phone the first, third or fifth time I call in a day. Start leaving messages and save yourself the time.
16. I ask if I can email or call on the phone. Some specialists are A-OK with communicating via email or on the phone. This serves as an efficient method for both sides and can save you from going in for another appointment.
17. I ask to pass a message on to the doctor or speak to a nurse. Are you having a side effect that you are worried about? Do you need them to re-fax your referral to your clinic? I don’t need to see my rheumatologist with every concern. My questions can often be answered once the secretary has asked the doctor or a nurse physician has called me back addressing my concern. I take advantage of a multidisciplinary team that is here to help.
Follow my journey on instagram: @chronicallykelsey
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