June 25, 2009

Medical History Forms

Next to reading information pamphlets about obscure diseases and drinking water from paper cones, my favorite thing to do in a doctor's office waiting room is to fill out medical history forms.

What I like even better than filling out the ten-page get-to-know-you-and-your-diseased-ancestors questionnaire that the Dermatology Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital hands out is filling out the same form every single I visit the clinic, which happens to be about every three months.



At my most recent visit on Monday, I decided to make things easy on myself and wrote "N/A" at the top of each of page and drew a line down to the bottom.

"We really need you to fill this out," the nurse told me when I got to the exam room.

I declined on account that I consider questions about pacemakers and numbness in my limbs to be irrelevant to the Crohn's Disease-induced rash on my neck. All I wanted was a pill to make it go away, but I would settle for a topical cream or a strong animal tranquilizer.

By the time the doctor came in to see me, I had already decided out of principle (what principle, I'm not entirely sure) to plead the Fifth on every question asked of me. I was willing, however, to put principle aside if the good doctor was willing to part with a little personal information of her own. In particular, I wanted to know where she got the gigantic diamond on her left hand (new since my last visit), plus who gave it to her and when.

Unfortunately, my doctor isn't a bargaining kind of woman, nor is she as free with stories about her personal life as I would prefer.

"You still don't have any metal devices implanted anywhere in your body?" she asked, ignoring my questions about her upcoming nuptials.

I shook my head and looked out the window.

"Are you on any medications?" she continued.
I gave her a blank stare.

"The last time you visited us, you were on six," she said flatly.

I shrugged my shoulders. If she wasn't going to tell me where she was going on her honeymoon or if her wedding dress was strapless or off-the-shoulder, I wasn't going to tell her about the new medication I was taking.

Just when I thought that I had frustrated the physician to her breaking point, the doctor dropped a bomb on me. "I can't write you a prescription for that rash," she said, pencil and prescription pad in hand, "Until I know if you have experienced any unexplained weight gain or loss in the past three months."

I may be a little slow to the draw, but I know a trap when I see one. If I answered this question, I was pretty certain that an inquiry about the date of the first day of my last menstrual cycle would follow.

Out of 'principle,' I decided that I can live with the rash a little while longer, even if it means that people will continue to mistake my throat for a cat's scratching post.

****
P.S. Thanks for the suggestions of how to get rid of my unwanted house guests, but they may be unnecessary. Yesterday, the fifth grader who lives in the house behind mine told me that she is trying to talk her mom into buying her a small rodent for her birthday, preferably a hamster or hairless gerbil. I asked her if would like a mouse with superpowers instead and her eyes lit up with excitement. "If you can catch it, you can keep it," I told her. The girl is thrilled beyond belief with the possibility of owning a magical beast. The girl's mother: not so much.

36 comments

Lindy said...

...and i love it when they prep you for the misery. "You're going to need to show up 15 minutes early to fill out the paperwork."

What the hell am I going to do, fly a space shuttle?!?!?

lissa said...

I think perhaps your dermatologist and my neurologist are conspiring? Considering the man prescribes the only medication I'll take (for fear of reactions) and I show up every time there IS one.... forms are generally useless!!!

Christa said...

oh you are just pure evil!! HAhaha

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

I've always preferred the "has anything changed in your medical history?" question over the blasted forms. It's mind numbing to fill them out over and over and over again. I think I'm going to start making stuff up. "I have a great aunt who recently contracted mesothelioma, and my brother in law just got diagnosed with crotch rot. Does any of this affect my sinus infection?"

Anonymous said...

My kids & I had a dentist appointment this week. I asked if I could just fill out one form, make two copies then write in the names, SS#'s etc. since everything else is the same. They just looked at me funny & then laughed like I was joking. Umm, I was serious.

Connie said...

Funny. I just went to the dermatologist yesterday. They pulled out a paper from the file, asked if my address or phone number had changed then told me to sign the paper. Not sure what I was signing, but was so relieved that I didn't have to fill anything out; I signed, did a heel click, then waited to have spots on my face frozen. Life is good!

AverageMom said...

I feel for you! I now refuse to pee in the cup to see if I am pregnant (what on EARTH does that have to do with my bleeding leg?!). When they ask, I say "I don't have a uterus. If I'm pregnant, I don't want to know the details."

Sarah said...

HAHAHAHA. I think that if you and I both saw the same doctor, they would quit. I do the same thing. I absolutely refuse to get my blood pressure taken, I argue with my doctor about which medications I should take when, I'm terrible at keeping up with my labwork, etc. etc.

And then I end up with club hands, and you have a scratching post neck. We sure showed them!!!

Maya said...

One of my doctors wanted me to show up 40 MINUTES before my appt. to fill out paperwork. I decided I didn't feel like getting up at 6:30 in the morning and if they were going to refuse me to see my doctor for not showing up early, so be it.

The best part? When I got there, there was NO paperwork. Still perplexed as to what I would have done for 40 minutes.

In all seriousness though, I've found a way to beat the system. I have a genetic disorder that necessitates frequent doctor visits, and they always want the same darned paperwork. I created a document with all my medical history and my family's medical history. Before an appt. I just print it off and bring it with me. At worst, I only have to check "no" on their form under things I don't have, and at best I don't have to fill out their form as well.

Lin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lin said...

It's all one big conspiracy set up by doctors to drive us insane...

Andrea Naugle said...

Love your blog! I usually refuse to do medical histories too, esp when I already have the doctor wrapped around my finger. I've been negotiating with my doctors since I was 4 years old. The trick is to show them within one sentance you know more or as much they do.

Christine said...

I love that every time my son has a surgery at UCLA medical center I am asked 50 times a day by every doctor, student, resident and nurse about my sons allergy to amoxicillin even though he is wearing a bright red wrist band and it's highlighted on every page of his chart. I sign countless forms over and over acknowledging this, I tell every person who even pokes their head in the room when they ask and invariably in a few minutes there will be someone new asking. Does anyone even look at the forms?

What would they do if I wasn't there?

The Mother said...

Patients like you make doctors SO happy.

Ande said...

One of my best friends that goes to my church, and i have grown up with, just got diagnoised with Chron's disease!

Gloria said...

I can relate 100%. I have Crohn's too (=lots of doc apt) and I get so annoyed with all the repeated questions/forms every visit. What kills me is the front office staff is so adamant about keeping your paper work up to date and the doctor then asks you ALL the same questions and charts it himself.

I've thought about asking the doc a bunch of personal questions as you mentioned. Your too funny.

Another thing I find astonishing is that I update my address and phone number EVERY SINGLE time I go to the doc and EVERY SINGLE time they have my address WRONG. This worries me a little.

QCMama said...

All through reading about you asking ?s about the diamond I kept reliving tv commercials from a local company. No matter what the person is talking about, one for instance her hand was caught in an elevator, the saving party can't stop asking about the ring on her finger. They are pretty funny, maybe you should submit your story to them and you'll make the big bucks when they turn it into a commercial. :)
I hate those endless forms too.
Oh and I am pretty proficient at getting rid of superpowered mice..I was mouse sitting one whose superpowers were to run in circles for hours and hours, when she was finally to be picked up. She had run her last circle. oops. :(

Dayna said...

I wonder where your kids get their stubbornness from....?

Jan Russell said...

I have psoriasis, and so I see the dermatologist regurally as well. Once he wanted a biopsy from my bum, and when he commented on my attitude about it, I asked how he'd like to drop his pants and show me HIS bum and then have me take a chunk out of it - HELLO??? Not anyone's idea of a good time.

Anonymous said...

At my OB's office, they give you the same several-pages-long form every year. My favorite questions: Birthdate? immediately followed by Age?. Figure it out! Also, they need to know my driver's license #? This year, I refused to fill out a slew of questions. Next year, I am going to ask them for this year's form and have them Xerox it!

Carrie said...

I SO feel your pain. The worst part to me is, even if you fill out the forms, the first thing they ask you are the things you filled out on the forms!

I just took my daughter into the doc. yesterday. She has the flu, evidently. The next question I hear is: "Have you been around anyone with the flu?"...as if I neglected to mention that earlier???

My reply should have been: "Yes, and while we were at it...decided to kiss on the mouth, roll around in their bedding and use their toothbrushes."

Good times, good times.

Anonymous said...

Oh, lighten up on the poor docs. They're malpractice insurance is extremely expensive because they get sued over someone having a reaction to a med that didn't mix with another med they were taking. Sadly, the patient forgot to mention the other med. I admit it's annoying to fill out the same forms EACH visit, but I would rather fill out the forms and have the doc double-check. At least then I know they are trying to make sure there are no mistakes.

The idea of copying the forms is great, just so long as they ask you to scan over it every so often to make sure it's still relevant. Sometimes we forget when we've changed a med because it didn't agree with us and the old med is still listed on the form.

On a side note: I did get a doctor to tell me all the details of her upcoming wedding and her honeymoon. Hee, hee, hee, I may understand WHY I have to fill out all the forms and answer the questions, but it still doesn't stop me from prying the docs as well.

Anonymous said...

Oops, I meant their not they're in the previous post. I really need to re-read before sending.

Rebecca is Thrilled by the Thought said...

Lol. You're going to single handedly put the power back in the hands of the patients! Good job!

Texas Susan said...

I totally agree about filling out the same forms over and over. I like the ones who ask if any information has changed.

Reminds me of when I call the credit card company, and the robo-voice tells me to key in my card number and zip code. When I finally get a human to talk to, they ALWAYS ask for my card number and zip code! What the heck?!?

J.Ro said...

My favorite is spending 20 minutes filling out the paperwork (which I didn't show up for since my GP's office is consistently at least 30 minutes late), only to get back to the exam room and have the nurse/medical assistant ask me all the same questions as they type into the computer the answers to questions that I just wrote down on the paperwork. Then when the doc finally comes in, he sits down at the computer screen, reads all the information I just gave twice, and asks me all the same questions again. **anger at just spending 45 minutes waiting to give information nobody seems to actually need**

The friendly folks at my neurologist's office, on the other hand, see me so often and know me so well that they haven't asked me to fill out a medical history for years. We're tight like that.

Gotta love chronic conditions.

Brooke said...

Go out and rent the movie GHOST TOWN. It has one of the funniest parts about doctors asking the main charater his medical history for a colon exam! Seriously, so funny!!! YOU WILL LOVE THIS MOVIE!!! (GHOST TOWN)

Sinclair said...

I don't know about the rash, but have you looked at dietary cures for Crohn's? Have you looked at Patient, Heal Thyself by Jordan Rubin?
http://www.crohns.net/Miva/productinfo/ExcerptPHT.shtml

Aly Caff said...

i think they should just photo copy your first form and assume you are still the same weight, height, age, and so on as when you filled out the form?

Anonymous said...

Living in Canada has it's advantages, no paperwork, FREE medical care, federal insurance which covers everything, we don't lack for care and have any doctor we want, we even live a few years longer than Americans...
We lived in Montana for a few months and naively had a baby down there too, against the advice we were given from our new friends who told us to go back to Canada and have our baby there, boy we learned a hard lesson! We learned the foreign concept of filling out forms and pre-payments (which doesn't exist in canada) and dealing with the insurance denials which were eventually covered and approved after long phone calls... let's just say that didn't encourage us to stay long down there! We got the offer to a position back in the home country and we snapped it up without a second thought and blissfully loving the universal healthcare and lack of filling out forms.

With research and a friend who worked at the hospital there, I have found forms that are filled out are sent to insurance companies to find reasons to deny claims and charge more due to medical histories. Even watched Micheal Moore's documentary movie: SICKO, which made me realize I LOVE being in CANADA!! (and will never go into the states again without traveler's insurance!!)

Anonymous said...

oh Jana are you serious? You are a seasoned pro and yet haven't figure this one out yet? TAKE ALL THE KIDS and LET THEM ACT LIKE KIDS!! :)
I took my son to the dermatologist just last month and they handed me a bunch of forms and a pen and said to fill them all out again, along with the insurance form-even though they had just copied the card with the same info. I started filling them out, but had to let the four kids roam in the process. In only minutes they had worked through "kissing" the fishies through the tank, playing "over and under" with the waiting room chairs, and had just began a game of tag in the 10x15 waiting room when the receptionist ran out and litterly ripped the clipboard and pen from my hands, telling me I'm sorry I was wrong you didn't need to fill those out all while giving my kids dirty looks, and less than 5 minutes later we had been seen, had a prescription and were half way across the parking lot.
Some days it does pay to have kids and NO we will not be returning to the clinic with the child phobic staff.

Anonymous said...

I once told my doctor and his troop of interns that they couldn't stay for my colonoscopy unless they had had one in front of a room of strangers. They all left. Seething, and I didn't care.

You go girl.

Anonymous said...

I've had 12 surgeries and don't feel it necessary to list them all when going in for strep throat or a back injury. Especially when they only give you a tiny line to write them on. Does it really matter that I had my appendix out? Does this change the treatment I will receive for my seasonal allergies?

I do understand listing all medications, b/c of effects, but otherwise some of those questions are just stupid. Who DOESN'T have trouble sleeping? And they never even ask you about that long page of boxes anyway, so what does it matter?

Jen said...

You need to ask them for a blank copy of the form, fill it out at home, xerox it for each and every visit, and hand it to them when you go in. Just date and sign it. I do this for my kids when the school system wants me to fill out registrations each fall or for summer camp registrations. Most don't care and are glad they have the stupid form returned in the first place.

I've been fighting with doctors lately who want my children's social security numbers. I won't give it to them because it doesn't matter whether they have it or not. The insurance is through my husband and they don't need his social for it -- so they don't need my kids.

And they surely don't need my driver's license!

Meagan and John said...

you know, I don't mind the forms all that much, what got me is the note my doctor mailed to me explaining the results of the last 24 hour urine test I took

www.diagnosisunavailable.blogspot.com
www.lewis4higer.blogspot.com

Kim said...

When you have time, check out this solution to take control of your healthcare and never have to fill out another medical history form again.

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It's easy, fast and fun. There's even a bonus section for home/finances.

www.MyFastTrackOrganizer.com