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After-Visit Summary helps you remember what the doctor said
You have diabetes and see your family doctor for your three-month checkup. Your doctor looks at that day’s blood sugar levels and the results of your A1C, a blood test that shows how well you’re managing your diabetes over time. She decides she wants you to try a different medication.
She gives you instructions on how often to take the new medicine and how you can tell whether it’s helping better control your blood sugar. She also tells you what tests you need to have before your next visit and when that visit should be. It can be a lot to remember, especially if you haven’t been feeling very well.
Not to worry. Doctors like Kara Jorve, MD, who practices family medicine at New Ulm’s Medical Center Clinic, have a way of helping you remember their instructions: the After-Visit Summary.
The After-Visit Summary is available as a printout or online for those who have signed up and have access to their electronic health records via New Ulm’s online health tool, called MyChart. You can access your records 24/7 on MyChart from anywhere you have Internet access.
Focus on what is said
Lots of times, Jorve said, patients will ask her to wait to give them instructions until they have a pen and paper in hand. “Thanks to the After-Visit Summary,” she said, “I tell them, ‘You don’t have to do that – I’ll write it down for you.’” She types the information into her computer during the visit, then prints it out for patients to take home before they leave her office.
Jorve said most patients seem grateful she will give them the details of the visit in writing. “That way,” she explained, “they can focus on what I’m saying and not be distracted by having to take notes.”
Studies have shown that patients forget at least 50 percent of what was talked about when they leave the exam room, Jorve said. “This helps them remember.”
Jorve said that, as a family doctor, she really likes the After-Visit Summary. “It helps me communicate with the patient better and they understand what I want them to do.”
Vital signs, medications part of summary
The After-Visit Summary contains basic information, including your name, visit date, the name of the health care provider you saw and the name of your primary care physician. It also includes your vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, weight and body mass index) at the time of the visit and available results of any lab tests, x-rays or other imaging tests. The After-Visit Summary also includes the reason for your visit, your diagnosis and your doctor’s recommendations for treatment and follow-up care.
If you have any allergies or are taking medications, that information also will be listed on your After-Visit Summary.
Jorve said she finds it easy to give patients the information they need in writing because it’s largely computerized. If, for example, a patient has a sprained ankle, she can click on instructions for treatment: rest, elevation, ice and anti-inflammatory medication.
If patients have high blood pressure, Jorve can include instructions for a low-salt diet in their summary. “Or if they have a shoulder or knee injury that can benefit from exercises, I can print out instructions on how to do them,” she said.
“We also can type in our own individualized instructions if necessary,” Jorve noted.
Printout is easy to read
Years ago, Jorve said, doctors would handwrite the instructions for patients, give them a copy, and put a copy in their chart. Not only did patients have trouble reading the doctor’s handwriting, but writing them out by hand took too long, she said.
Most patient visit summaries are a page or two. However, if patients have a number of chronic conditions and a long list of medications that they take, the summary can run a few pages.
You can sign up for MyChart. Or ask about the service when you visit the clinic at New Ulm Medical Center. If your doctor at New Ulm doesn’t provide an After-Visit Summary, ask for one, Jorve advised.