Always makes me laugh to think how some of us walk into a health care provider’s office for the first time and we have no qualms about getting naked in front of them… Or in emergent situations allow them to make life or death decisions for us without even having met us! How does this happen?
The Typical Scenario
You’ve just chosen a new primary doc because your insurance says you must. Maybe in your state, the “law” notes you have to pick out one primary to “manage” your care. Upon inquiry, 90 percent (yes 90) of my patients visit their primaries less than once per year; instead seeing their specialists for urgent or preventive care. Many patients choose a primary, don’t see them until a health concern pops up or something is “wrong” and end up feeling like strangers upon meeting. Bottom line, in most states, you need a rep to speak for you in emergent cases and your primary tends to be this person. Ask yourself, would you want a complete stranger making life and death decisions for you or your kids?
Make the Introduction
I always suggest patients develop health care proxies. Proxies protect you and your family to ensure your personal wishes are met when you can’t speak for yourself. Proxies are intentional specific contracts between you and your health care providers to help care teams act fast in emergent situations. You want one in place if you don’t already have one developed.
Another great way to facilitate a relationship between you and your new, but not-yet-met primary care provider is to send an intro letter! You’ll put in little time and the return investment is empowering and in some cases life-saving.
What Should I Say?
- Talk about yourself, your wellness goals and your lifestyle concisely.
- List preferred care methods and modalities you thrive with.
- Offer notes on other providers you primarily work with and why you prefer their care.
- Although allergies will be listed in your file somewhere, highlight any acute allergic reactions such as those specific to medications or foods.
- If you have a proxy, forward this as well.
- Some folks like to list their emergency contacts and specifically mention who is the best person to speak for them in emergent conditions (also listed on proxy). This can be left in the “important notes” section after your signature.
- Call the office about five days after sending to be sure it was received. To ensure the doctor reads it say, “Hi! I’m a new patient of Dr. X and sent a letter to introduce myself and offer him details about my current care. All of my providers have this letter at the front of my file; just wanted to be sure Dr. X had a chance to see it. Thanks!”
Really, I should do this? Yes! You’ll stand out and create a polite sense of urgency. The doctor will at least remember reading your letter when you eventually meet!
Sit Down, Pen a Letter Now!
Here’s an example letter one of my patients just sent her new doc. It’s simple, well written and to the point. She offered the most current information while telling about her philosophy on how she prefers to be cared for. Go ahead, use it as your model!
Dear Dr. Traditional Medicine,
I am writing you this letter to provide you with some more specific information than what is in my medical records. Your name was recommended to me by a current patient of yours, a co-worker of mine.
I currently work with several health care professionals and I take my health and wellness very seriously. I prefer integrative care and professionals who practice whole-person, total body medicine. Prescription drugs are an area I try to avoid whenever possible (ie. I use neuro feedback, acupuncture, and a variety of supplements to target my anxiety). Please refer to the list on the following page.
My integrative approach specialists, X and Y have been overseeing the support of my underactive thyroid. For thyroid support, I currently take 60mg of Armour. Other than these two areas, my overall health is great. I exercise on a daily basis and stick to a gluten and dairy free diet.
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter, and I look forward to meeting you.
Awesome Proactive Patient
Easy right! Put it on your calender and send it off by Monday!
Thanks so much to all of my awesome patients who are continually helping me shape how I advocate and offer care!