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Ask The Expert: How Can I Make The Most Of A Visit To The Pediatrician?

01/06/2014 03:37PM ● Published by Nancy Babin

As parents, we've all had questions when taking a child to the doctor: What information should I bring? How do I keep track of my child's immunizations, medications, etc.? We shared these common concerns with Jean Hanley, M.D., a board certified physician with more than 20 years' experience in pediatrics and allergy, asthma and immunological diseases. Hanley is also the founder of Planning Health, a non-profit patient-advocacy service that helps people with health problems to receive better care in all aspects of their health, such as understanding their symptoms, diagnosis, procedures and treatments.

Q When my child is sick and I'm worried, it's easy to forget to bring the right things to the doctor's appointment. What should I remember to bring to make it an effective appointment?

A: It's helpful to create a medical history for your child and to update it as needed. This can be done on paper, on a computer document or spreadsheet, or with one of the convenient health-tracking apps for your computer or mobile device. List immunizations, past diagnoses, treatments, lab results, medications taken daily (asthma inhalers, recent antibiotics, etc.) and intermittently (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, etc.). 

I highly suggest trying one of the free or inexpensive medical-tracking apps that can be easily downloaded to your mobile device or computer, such as:

• My Medical Records (online and mobile app: freehealthtrack.com)

• My Medical (online and mobile app: mymedicalapp.com)

• Hermes (mobile app)

• MyHealth (mobile app) 

These databases allow you to record medications, procedures, tests, allergies, surgical procedures, diagnoses, injuries, photos and more. Having easily available medical information can lead to a more efficient and productive doctor's visit.

If you don't have all of this information available, it's important to bring to your appointment at least the actual medications that your child has been taking recently.

Write down your child's symptoms: cold, cough, ear pain, etc. When did the symptoms start? What happened if there was an injury? Where does it hurt? How have the symptoms progressed? Are they getting better, worse or staying the same? (If the illness or injury happens suddenly and you have to rush to a doctor's appointment, try to write down this information while in the waiting room.)

Q Should I bring another adult along for the visit if I'm bringing a young child? How does this help?

A: I always advocate bringing another adult with you to doctor visits, whether it's for your child or for yourself. A spouse, friend or other family member often serves as an objective observer and provides what I call the "witness effect." Although I'm a doctor, I get sick too! As a patient, I often went to appointments by myself. When my spouse would occasionally accompany me, I noticed that more time and attention was being given to me. Although I felt that my care was very good, the "phenomenon" of even 

Q l'd like to do online research on my child's condition or symptoms before the doctor's visit. How do I share this information with the doctor?

A: In our information age, many parents want to have a shared decision-making relationship with their child's doctor. The parents may have already researched the illness and may have a fairly good idea of what diagnosis or treatment plans are available. Some parents feel more comfortable accepting the doctor's information as-is. Either way is acceptable as long as you're comfortable with the relationship: one-way vs. shared.

A note of caution: With medical information at our Internet fingertips, it's easy to become overwhelmed and confused with the details of a diagnosis, treatment or the potential side effects of a medication. Medical misinformation from the Internet often leads to perplexing concerns about medical conditions. For this reason, it's imperative that parents ask for clarification and confirmation of Internet information and that the doctor's office provides written instructions regarding your child's diagnosis and treatment.

Q What should I do if I don't understand my child's diagnosis or the treatment plan the doctor is suggesting?

A: Contact the doctor's office right away to get answers to your remaining questions. Often a nurse will help you understand what you need to know. If you find that you frequently are not given sufficient information about your child's health, then you may want to either prepare and research conditions prior to the doctor's visit and/or consider finding a new doctor who may be more thorough during the visit.

About the Author:
Kathy Sena lives with her husband, her 16-year-old son and Charlie the rescue dog. Her son recently completed driver’s training, and she lives to tell the tale.
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