Routine ID Doctor Appointments
Once you have chosen an HIV specialist or an infectious disease (ID) doctor, you will have to become accustomed to routine appointments.
How frequent are appointments?
In most cases, routine follow-up appointments start every 3 months and move to every 6 months if the doctor feels it is appropriate.
While I have been seeing my doctor for a couple of years, we still see each other every 3 months. My case started from a very bad point, causing us to take our time getting everything under control.
I seem to always be a complicated case for doctors!
How to prepare for a visit
There are several things you can do to have a smooth routine doctor's appointment.
Be on time
First, you should be prompt. I prefer to be early, like any other type of meeting I may attend.
Insurance and co-pays
Also, you should be prepared to pay your co-payment while you sign in for the appointment.
If you are using a co-pay assistance program, be aware of the process to make sure you have everything that is needed.
In my case, I know I must deal with the case management team in advance to have my payment agreement ready to go.
Have a written list of medications
They will need to chart all the medications you are using. To be prepared for this, you can bring the medication bottles or have a written list of all your medications.
Anticipate lab work or blood draws
A routine part of these appointments will be having lab work done. It is important to be mentally prepared to have blood drawn if you struggle with needles.
When my appointments started, I had issues with needles. But after years of having regular lab work done, needles no longer bother me.
Talking points to guide the conversation
How my weight and appetite are doing. Originally, I was extremely underweight. Therefore, we monitor my weight and discuss my appetite at every appointment
Any recent illnesses or health concerns. When I get sick, it tends to become serious. It is bad enough that I will come to see my ID doctor for unscheduled appointments when I have a bad respiratory infection.
What else is going on with my body. I also have several other chronic health conditions and my doctor likes an update on how things are doing on that end.
Possible referrals. Due to the other conditions that I have, we discuss how things are going with my other doctors. My infectious disease doctor is always able to suggest new doctors if I need a referral.
How my sleep has been. Due to my diagnosis story, I developed PTSD and it has affected my sleep. I struggle with insomnia, so sleep is extremely important for me to stay healthy.
How my labs are looking. We discuss changes in my lab work. My doctor makes sure that I understand what my blood work shows and what it means.
Obtaining medications. My doctor and I always take the time to verify that I have been able to obtain my medications and that I am taking them properly.
My mental health. I deal with PTSD and depression. My doctor takes the time to check in with me about how I am doing mentally.
Finding a good doctor
It is important to be open with your ID doctor, which is why I stress finding a doctor that you are comfortable around.
My ID doctor knows more about my health and my personality than any other doctor I have seen. We both invest everything into our appointment time together.
Interview any potential doctors prior to committing
It can be a process to find a great ID doctor. I personally interview any new doctor prior to committing to them being my doctor.
It is important that you find a doctor who is well educated on HIV and who you are comfortable seeing for care. You can find a great article to use for your first appointment with a new doctor: 23 Important Questions to Ask Your Doctor About HIV Care.
How is your relationship with your infectious disease doctor?
Do you live in the Southern US?