September 16, 2011

Getting the Most From Your Doctor’s Visit

Ed Swierczek Photo

By Ed of Allsup

Visiting a medical professional is serious business, especially when you are seeking Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Whether you are someone with a disability or a chronic illness or a caregiver, here are some tips to ensure you will get what you need from your visit with your doctor.

Often, doctors are busy people. Yours also may not be aware that you are seeking Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

If you come prepared, you are more likely to have a successful visit.

One pointer before the visit: Most offices want you to bring in all of your pills. Put your prescription medications (in their original containers)—in a plastic or paper bag. Bring in all over-the-counter medications, also. Your physician then knows precisely what meds you are taking and can add this to your record.

Remember the old Boy Scout motto; in this case, it is best to “Be Prepared.”

At the visit:

  • The receptionist is not a clinician, so save your medical questions for the nurse or doctor.

  • Make sure you fill out any paperwork completely and double-check your policy numbers.

  • During your physician time, get your questions answered. If you are prepared, the time won’t slip away. This is your time, when all your concerns and questions can be addressed.

  • It is important to ensure your physician is aware of the problems you are having. Be sure to explain these problems so he or she can make notes.

  • If you can no longer work because of your medical impairment, you should, at each office visit, apprise your physician as your current symptoms, be they pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, etc.… It is imperative that the physician’s records document the impact of your impairment on your functioning. It is advisable to inform the doctor of what limitations you are experiencing because of your impairment(s).

  • If you plan to pursue a disability claim—whether Social Security disability and/or a private long-term disability plan—it would behoove you to determine whether your doctor is supportive of your claim. A treating physician’s medical opinion under Social Security’s disability guidelines carries great weight.

  • You may want to let the physician know that he or she may be asked to complete assessment forms on your behalf. Try to determine if the physician is agreeable to doing so. If your physician is not agreeable to completing assessment forms, would your physician be willing to write a supportive letter on your behalf?

  • When documenting your disability, it’s ideal if your doctor cites the medical reasons why you are unable to work. In a letter, your physician should indicate the functional limitations imposed by your impairment(s), such as, how long can you sit, stand, walk in an eight-hour day; how much are you able to lift/carry; state any postural limitations; and cite any manipulative limitations. The doctor also should document if you are having pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, etc.…, and address how these symptoms impact functioning.

  • Remember, these are the types of details that your doctor should know in order to provide effective treatment for your condition as well.

  • Ask the nurse to call in any new prescription to your pharmacy. A common practice in many offices, this will save you time.

  • Set up your next visit while there and get an appointment card to put in a safe place at home.

  • It is important to a claim for disability benefits to have ongoing medical care to demonstrate the continuity of your impairment. So, while visiting your doctor regularly may not hold much appeal, it’s absolutely critical for documenting your disability and for looking after your health.

Whether you have a disability or chronic illness or care for someone who does, these simple tips can make a challenging doctor’s visit easier and more valuable.

Contact the Disability Evaluation Center if you have questions about your condition and eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. You also can call (800) 279-4357.

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