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Get the Right Disability Diagnosis From Your Doctor - Use This Checklist

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 11: 50
Written by Joni B. Bailey
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We've all been there - sitting in the doctor's office completely unable to remember key facts that he or she needs to know to make a correct diagnosis.  Don't let it happen when your Social Security Disability benefits are on the line - use this checklist to ensure that you receive the right diagnosis for your illness or injury.

1.  Be clear, complete, and accurate when you talk to your doctor about your illness.

For the best results, an accurate portrayal of your illness is essential.  I strongly recommend that you write all of the important information and details about your illness down before your appointment so that you do not forget anything when you are talking with your doctor.

Here are some prompts to get started:

  1. When did the symptoms start?
  2. What made them better or worse?
  3. Were they related to medications you were taking?
  4. Does exercise help or hurt?
  5. Is there a certain time of day where the illness is better or worse?

Often, a nurse or health technician will ask questions before the doctor comes in to see you. Make sure that you repeat any information you told the nurse to the doctor.  Don't assume he will hear it second-hand.

2. Be a good historian.

  • Remember what treatments you have tried in the past for this illness.  Did they help?
  • Think about how your illness has progressed over time.  Has it gotten better?  Worse?
  • Think about your family’s medical history.  Could you be at risk for the same illness as a family member?

3. Be a good record keeper.

  • Keep your own records of test results, referrals, and hospital admissions.  These should be all in one central location such as a file folder or binder.
  • Keep an accurate list of your medications, preferably in the same place as your medical records.
  • Bring your medication list with you when you go to an appointment or see your pharmacist.
  • Make copies of your medical records to give to your Social Security Disability attorney.

4. Be an informed consumer.

  • Learn about your illness by looking on the Internet (www.medlineplus.gov) or visit your local library.
  • Learn about the tests or procedures you are having done.  What are the side effects?  The risks?
  • Learn about your medications.  
  • Know the both the generic and the brand name of your medication.  
    For example, Tylenol is the brand name for the generic Acetaminophen.
  • Know what the medication is for.
  • Know the amount (dose) you need to take.
  • Know the time you need to take it during the day.
  • Know the side effects to watch for and report to your doctor.
  • Know if the medication interacts with any food or drugs.

5. Take charge of managing your health.

  • If you have more than one doctor, make sure each doctor knows what the other person is thinking and planning.
  • Make sure each doctor knows all of your test results, medications, or other treatments.
  • Be informed and involved in decisions about your health.

6. Know your test results.

  • Make sure both you and your doctor get the results from any tests that are done.  Do not assume this will always be the case!  
  • Do not assume that no news is good news - call and check on your test results if you do not hear back within the timeframe specified.
  • If they are not explained to you, ask what the test results mean and what needs to be done next.

7. Follow up.

  • Ask when you need to make another appointment (follow up) with your doctor or nurse once you start treatment.
  • Ask what to expect from the treatment or what it will do for you.
  • Ask what you need to do if you get new symptoms, or start to feel worse.
  • Send a copy of any new medical records, including prescriptions, to your Social Security Disability representative.

8. Make sure your diagnosis is correct.

  • Sometimes your diagnosis is the most "likely" thing that is wrong, but it may not be the "right" thing
  • Don’t be afraid to ask "What else could this be?"
  • Encourage your doctor or nurse to think about other possible reasons for your illness.

Based on the Checklist for Getting the Right Diagnosis by the National Patient Safety Foundation.

Further reading:  Be An Active Member of Your Healthcare and Legal Teams


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