How to make sure your care is coordinated when you see more than one doctor
Even if you’re the picture of health, you may see more than one doctor—a primary care physician, a gynecologist if you’re a woman, an occasional urgent care healthcare professional. And if you’re living with a chronic condition like heart disease or diabetes or have been diagnosed with a serious illness like cancer, the number of doctors you see could be even greater. The challenge that arises is making sure the care you receive is coordinated and that each healthcare professional you receive care from knows about all the care you’re receiving from your other doctors.
Care coordination is important for several reasons:
- It lowers the risk of medical errors such as prescription medication interactions and missed follow-up care.
- It protects you against unnecessary care such as duplicate diagnostic testing, imaging, and prescriptions.
- It ensures that all doctors treating you are aware of your diagnoses and current and past treatments, as well as any side effects or complications you’ve experienced.
A project focused on care coordination in the treatment of children with complex medical conditions found that when care was well coordinated, there was a 32% reduction in days spent in the hospital and a 26% reduction in emergency room visits, results that one of the physicians involved in the project believes can be applied to the care of adult patients with even more significant results.
Steps to help ensure your care is coordinated
There are several proactive steps you can take to make sure your care is coordinated and your medical records are shared with all the doctors you see.
- Ask your primary care physician to be your care hub. Some primary care physicians have taken on the role of being their patients’ medical homes. They collect and aggregate the records from all the doctors and other healthcare providers their patients see. But you have an important role to play here. Make sure you keep your doctor in the loop about which doctors and healthcare facilities you receive care from including specialists, urgent care or walk-in clinic facilities, diagnostic testing and imaging facilities, and other health professionals such as physical therapists, nutritionists, and mental health providers.
- Build a comprehensive medical record. You can build your own medical record, collecting all information from each doctor’s visit and storing it using a mobile app, on your computer, or as a hard copy. An electronic universal medical record managed by a health advisor is another option. Your records will be gathered, reviewed by a physician, and stored in a secure electronic format that can be shared with any physician who treats you anywhere in the world in minutes.
- Follow up after tests. Many people assume that no news is good news, but that’s not always the case with medical tests and imaging. If your doctor sends you for any type of testing or imaging, ask when you can expect to receive the results and, if you don’t hear from your doctor within that timeframe, call him or her and ask to review your results and discuss next steps.
- If you’re admitted to the hospital, make sure your doctors know and you know what to do next. Many of the problems that happen when care isn’t well coordinated happen when people are discharged from the hospital. When you’re discharged, carefully read your discharge instructions and ask the doctor or nurse any questions you have about follow-up care, when to discontinue medications that were prescribed in the hospital, and signs and symptoms to watch for that could indicate the need for immediate medical care. It’s also important to contact your primary care physician and any specialists you see regularly and let them know you were in the hospital, why you were admitted, and what treatment you received.