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Six tips to get the most out of your dermatology visit!

1. Gather your medical information and visit our online patient portal to enter these details directly into your electronic medical record.  This portal will help you make a list of your current and past medical diagnoses, surgical procedures, family history, and current medications (including herbal supplements and vitamins).  Skin problems are not just “skin deep” and often reflect internal medical and genetic issues or can be side-effects of medications.  Be specific about any past skin cancer diagnoses: how they were treated, who did the treatment, and what year this occurred.  Note any family history of skin cancer as this can indicate your personal risk of developing cancer yourself.  Compiling all of this information in advance will ensure a very productive and comprehensive visit.  Doing this online on our patient portal means you do not have to fill out a medical history form upon arrival to our office.
2.  Get your test results in advance.  If you have had skin biopsies in the past, bring a copy of the pathology report.  If you have had any lab tests or imaging that could be related to your skin problem, bring these results as well.  This may require requesting your records to be sent from the physician that performed the test.  As dictated by the HIPPA privacy law, patients must sign a “release of medical information form” for their records to be sent to your new physician.  Often one needs to call the office where the record is located and request the form and state where the information needs to be sent.  Usually the easiest way to transfer this info is by fax.  Our fax number is 832-772-3332.  Once received by our office, this information will be scanned into your electronic chart (which is created immediately upon setting up an appointment) and will be ready for us to review at the time of your visit.   This level of preparation ensures that we embark on the correct treatment path or best diagnostic strategy.
3.  Make a written list of the top 2-3 issues you would like to prioritize.  This ensures that time is used wisely during your visit and that your most important issues are addressed.  This list can be as simple as “what is this spot on my leg?” to as complicated as “what treatment options are available for my difficult diagnosis?”  If this is a visit for a new issue or you are a new patient, think about the following questions: When did this start?  Is this the first episode?  Are there any associated symptoms?  What seems to make it better?  What makes it worse?  What treatments have you tried (including over-the-counter and herbal remedies)?  How much does this bother you?  How is this affecting your life? Has a biopsy been done?  If you think this is medication-related, how long have you been on each of your medications and how does this relate to the onset of the problem?  Organizing your thoughts will help you relay a clear and accurate story and ensure that no details are missed.  Also feel free to bring pictures (on a smart phone perhaps) of how the problem has progressed.
4.  Speak up.  Be direct, honest, and as specific as possible when recounting your symptoms or expressing your concerns.  Many patients are reluctant or embarrassed to talk about their issues, which makes it more difficult for us to interpret what is transpiring.  It is also a good idea to bring a family member or friend to your appointment.  They can help you ask questions, listen to our discussion, and give you support.
5.  Bring your skin products with you.  Together we can review active ingredients, expiration dates, application strategies, and potential allergens.  Sometimes treatments may not work well either because they are applied incorrectly, expired, or wrong for the problem being treated.  Instead of guessing what you are using, it is much easier to have the product in hand and know what it is exactly.  This includes collecting past or current prescriptions used to treat the problem and saves you from needing to call your pharmacy for drug information.
6.  And finally, try not to pick or scratch your problem skin.  This is “easier said than done” when it comes to an itchy situation.  But scratching and picking changes the appearance of a rash or a spot and can make it more challenging to evaluate clinically.  If all that remains is a sore, it is very difficult to know what was present beforehand.  Even a biopsy may not be as helpful or as accurate on a sore compared to the initial lesion.
If you have any additional questions, please feel free to call us at 832-772-3330.  We look forward to your visit!

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