January/February #151 : Make Those Doc Visits Count - by Richard Ferri PhD

POZ - Health, Life and HIV
Subscribe to:
POZ magazine
Join POZ: Facebook MySpace Twitter Pinterest
Tumblr Google+ Flickr MySpace
POZ Personals
Sign In / Join

Back to home » Archives » POZ Magazine issues

Table of Contents

Out On A Limb

Your Money or Your Life

The Sinus Monologues

Expert Opinion

Earlier HIV Meds?

HIV Treatment Guidelines Revised Again

Tea Time

Check My Meds

HIV-Med Pipeline Update

Complaint Department

Med Alert

Share the Wealth

Decreased Counts

Energy Savers

Sexual Healing

Make Those Doc Visits Count

Seeking Sisterhood

Forgotten No More

Is AIDS a Riot?

This Boy’s Life

Resistance Is Futile

Editor's Letter - Jan/Feb 2009

Letters - Jan/Feb 2009

Bear With Him


Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

Scroll down to comment on this story.

email print

January / February 2009

Make Those Doc Visits Count

by Richard Ferri PhD

HIV-positive nurse practitioner Richard Ferri, PhD, helps you get more out of your appointments.

Have you ever left your doctor’s* office feeling that you didn’t get answers to some pressing questions? To live a long and healthy life, you need the support of your team of health care providers. If you’re in good health, you may see the team only once every three months—and office visits may last only 20 minutes—so it’s crucial to maximize each visit. As a nurse living with HIV and practicing HIV medicine, I face this challenge from both ends of the stethoscope. Here are some ways to improve medical appointments—beginning with a little demystification.

That white coat is not a Superman cape. Doctors are just people. If you feel intimidated by your provider, you are less likely to ask follow-up questions or insist on getting answers you understand. So talk to your doctor as you would to a friend.

Be ready. Before the appointment, make sure you’ve completed all tests prescribed at your last visit and confirm that results have arrived at your doc’s office. A day or two before the appointment, make a list of all the items that are on your mind.

Give your doc a copy of your questions at the beginning of the visit—he or she may see that item No. 9, for example, puts item No. 1 in focus. But don’t hesitate to mention your most burning issue first. It’s hard to concentrate if your mind is focused on something you are anxious to discuss.

Review (or establish) your short- and long-term health care goals. If your lab numbers reflect a problem with your treatment, discuss an improvement strategy. If you have trouble with adherence, discuss the whys and what ifs. Don’t just promise to do better; get your provider’s help with a plan to do so.

Bring up symptoms. Be specific and get right to the point, limiting details (“I was on the bus last week when…”) unless they suggest a cause for the symptom.

Mention side effects. If they make your life miserable, both you and your doc need to be willing to consider switching the meds that may be causing them. If a symptom bugs you, insist that the doctor take it seriously. If he or she can’t offer a remedy, ask for a referral to someone—a nutritionist or physical therapist, say—who might be able to help.

Get care for your total health —not just your HIV. This virus is complex, with many pieces of the puzzle still unknown. Look beyond the lab numbers and review all your health needs (such as fatigue, high blood pressure, snoring, depression and loss of hearing or eyesight). You might ask your doc whether the problems you face are common among HIV-positive people.

Discuss all your meds, not just your HIV regimen. Make sure to understand why you are taking every drug you swallow—and discuss whether you really need each one. Your doc may be able to recommend health-improvement strategies that don’t involve more pills.

Keep talking. If you don’t understand something, or if something your doctor says just doesn’t ring true, keep asking until you feel comfortable with the answers. This visit is for you. Ask for additional reading material or directions to a Web site if a subject concerns you.

Tell the truth. When you omit or lie about something—including recreational drug use, sexual behavior or family history—your doc ends up treating a patient who is not really you. Docs are not cops, and they are bound by law to protect your privacy. If you don’t feel safe enough with your doctor to open up, it could be time to switch providers.

* The term “doctor” refers to all primary care providers, including physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

Search: Richard Ferri, doctor, appointmen

Scroll down to comment on this story.


(will display; 2-50 characters)


(will NOT display)


(will display; optional)

Comment (500 characters left):

(Note: The POZ team reviews all comments before they are posted. Please do not include either ":" or "@" in your comment. The opinions expressed by people providing comments are theirs alone. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Smart + Strong, which is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by people providing comments.)

Comments require captcha.
Please enter this number for verification:

| Posting Rules

Show comments (1 total)

[Go to top]

Facebook Twitter Google+ MySpace YouTube Tumblr Flickr Instagram
Quick Links
Current Issue

HIV Testing
Safer Sex
Find a Date
Newly Diagnosed
HIV 101
Disclosing Your Status
Starting Treatment
Help Paying for Meds
Search for the Cure
POZ Stories
POZ Opinion
POZ Exclusives
Read the Blogs
Visit the Forums
Job Listings
Events Calendar
POZ on Twitter

Ask POZ Pharmacist

Talk to Us
Did you participate in an event for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 2016?


more surveys
Contact Us
We welcome your comments!
[ about Smart + Strong | about POZ | POZ advisory board | partner links | advertising policy | advertise/contact us | site map]
© 2016 Smart + Strong. All Rights Reserved. Terms of use and Your privacy.
Smart + Strong® is a registered trademark of CDM Publishing, LLC.