As part of the three-part series, "Secrets from a ..." where industry insiders share ways to help save you money, we get the inside scoop about your medical issues from Dr. Natalie Azar, clinical assistant professor of medicine and rheumatology at NYU Medical Center.
Best/worst time for a doctor's appointment
The best time for an appointment is in the morning. The first couple of appointments in the day are your best bet because it's less likely your doctor has fallen behind.
The three most common reasons a doctor's schedule falls behind are:
- Real emergencies
- The unexpected complicated visit, where at the end of the visit, the patient suddenly says, "by the way, I’m having chest pains." That's a situation that doesn’t wait until the next appointment.
- Late patients. If a patient is running 10 to 15 minutes late, it bumps everybody back.
Another time that might make sense for some people is in the evening. But the evening might also be a bad time, because doctors who see patients all day long are going to be exhausted at that time. You’re not going to get the same energy and attention.
Worst time for elective surgery
July. It’s the called the July effect. It's not because doctors are preoccupied with thoughts about summer vacation. It's because the academic or training year begins July 1. That means everyone is moving up —interns become residents, residents move up in their training. So at the beginning of July, the intern is a freshly minted medical school graduate.
Studies on medical errors suggest the odds of dying are highest in teaching hospitals in July, because of medication errors. Others have refuted that and say people are more on their toes, especially nurses.
But, in general, if you have the luxury of choosing, don’t go for an elective surgery during the first week or two of July.
Referrals for a specialist
Have the referral from your primary care physician ready when you arrive for your appointment. Most medical offices don't have the capacity to hold the billing until they have received a referral from the primary care physician. The billing has to go in within a certain number of hours or days when you see the doctor.
So, if you have the referral at the time of your visit with the specialist, you won't have to pay out of pocket and try to get the reimbursement from your insurance company.
Also, next time you're at the doctor, bring the list of preferred medications from your insurance company. And if you're given a prescription, ask your doctor for a 3-month supply of medication.
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