Finally! Your long-awaited doctor’s appointment is days away. This time’s precious--to make the most of it, you’ve jotted notes or questions to ask on bits of paper as the thoughts arise. At the doctor’s, you may have those notes with you, but may not recall all the doctor said and next steps to take. To make the most of your doctor’s visit, I consulted my local Saddlebrooke Nurse Advocate and esteemed friend, Ms. Patti Dunlap, RN, who shared a helpful tip.

Buy a simple notebook dedicated to your medical visits and prescription drug purchases. This book provides a place to make notes for upcoming visits, to list any medications the doctor discussed for the future, or actions you must take. Your notebook makes doctor visits more efficient and outcomes more positive. Your notes and the doctor’s responses are in one place. You have a record and a clear picture of your visit. Use it when you are looking at a bill or an explanation of benefits from your health plan to match what was reported by the provider and what you actually experienced,” Patti shared. This is wise advice from a highly experienced nurse/advocate who accompanies people on doctor visits.

Another tip is to use one form of payment for all medical and prescription copays and coinsurances. This makes easy work of finding what you paid when you receive a bill stating a payment discrepancy. You know which credit or debit card, or checking account to research to prove your payment, and makes for easy tallying of medical costs at tax time.

Lastly, invoke your agent/broker to help with taking the mystery out of your Explanation of Benefits (EOB) or assist with customer service matters. Your enrolling agent can initiate a three-way call to your plan to help you change your provider, clarify a billing question from your EOB, or other matters. As consumers we know to write down the representative’s name, and date we called (using our dedicated notebook!)

A helpful practice is to ask if there is a call reference number for the call and jot it down. Your agent will have a note in your file that is a record of the call with the call reference number. This reference number can prove invaluable if you have a matter that wasn’t resolved in one call and might require some additional assistance with your agent/broker advocating on your behalf with your plan. It also is a gentle alert to the person assisting you that you are asking for a record you can refer to if matters are not fully resolved.

The plans do their best to be helpful in delivering your healthcare and your prescriptions. Putting a few simple procedures in place such as your Medical Notebook, your one form of payment, and involving your agent/ broker to assist in plan matters will make these transactions smoother. The result will may result in better outcomes in health and add to your peace of mind.

Leah Kari, Certified Medical Representative and retired pharmaceutical representative, is a local, licensed life and health insurance broker specializing in Medicare insurance options in Tucson. Reach Leah for comments at 520-484-3807 or email (TTY users dial 711.)