Let's switch to the outpatient setting. It's Friday evening and you develop a burning feeling in your chest. You call your physician and are told he is "off call" for the weekend. Planning ahead will help you and the covering doctor make sure good care continues.
- Remember that unless your physician is one of the relatively few doctors using an electronic medical record accessible over the Internet, the covering physician most likely will have no access to your office medical chart.
- Keep a home medical history file -- a list of your medical problems, medications (including dosages and how often you take them each day), allergies, and past operations. Knowing your medications is especially important; the covering doctor will have no idea what "the little red pill" is.
- If possible, have your home medical file available in a format that can be faxed or emailed to the covering doctor. If you're technically challenged, ask a family member or close friend to send the information to a covering doctor or emergency room.
- Keep a list of a local pharmacy numbers, including at least one 24-hour pharmacy.
- Keep track of your prescriptions so that you do not run out over a weekend.
- Try to be concise but detailed when reporting your symptoms. The doctor will want to know:
- What exactly is the symptom?
- When did it start?
- Did it start after you did something? (such as eating, exercise, and so on). Remembering the pepperoni pizza you ate 20 minutes before the chest burning began just may save you a trip to the emergency room!
- Does anything make it better or worse?
- Have you ever had it before?
- Don't be afraid or intimidated to phone the cross-covering doctor. And if you don't get a return call within a reasonable time, call back. He or she may not have gotten the message.
Remember that weekend coverage is for urgent problems. But do not hesitate to call if you are not sure whether a problem is truly urgent. However, do not ask for a second opinion about a chronic, nonurgent issue that your regular doctor is already addressing.