This might sound a little unexpected coming from a doctor, but I want to know about your goals and dreams. Some of the questions I love to ask my patients include things like: “What’s your background?” “What do your days look like?”  “Who are the people (or creatures) most important to you?” and “What brings you joy?”

Sometimes these questions might feel personal, but there is growing evidence that the answers are essential to your health.

Our society often thinks about health as the lack of disease, but it’s so much more than that. Each individual defines health and wellness differently. What’s important to your wellness might be very different for someone else.

The modern medical system is also increasingly complicated and sometimes there are several options for how we could approach your symptoms and known medical conditions. At Partnership Health Center (PHC), we love listening to you and hearing what you value in life because it helps us offer you the best possible guidance and advice.

That said, you are ultimately the authority of your own body and life.  No one is more of an expert on you than you!  For example, you may already know that you have certain medical conditions or are prone to health issues because of your family history.  Having that information handy is helpful to make the most of your time with your medical provider.  Sadly, the reality of our health care system is that we often don’t have as much time as we would like to spend with you. The average primary care medical visit is only about 17.5 minutes long!

We work hard to spend as much time with you as possible, but it is still important to come prepared so we can use our precious time together talking about what matters most to you.

Here are some simple steps you can take to prepare for a visit with your doctor:

Bring a list of your known medical conditions.

Bring a list of your medications (or even better the medication bottles themselves).

Think beforehand about your top two or three priorities you would like to talk about – what do you want to leave the visit having communicated and accomplished.

Having this information ready helps us spend more time listening to you, the expert on your health.  These valuable conversations help us prioritize our suggestions for your wellbeing and identify what other resources in our organization or the community might be helpful for you.

My goal as a medical provider is to heal, and sometimes the things that ail us aren’t so obvious.  Things like having enough healthy food or safe housing play a huge role in individual and community health.  We often think about these things as the “social determinants of health” and health care organizations and individual health care providers are asking questions about these issues more routinely. These sorts of things are, by definition, determined by our society as a whole.  Ultimately this means that we all have a role to play in the health and wellbeing of ourselves and our communities.

I have a lot of tools as a physician, but often the most important tools are the partnerships and trust that I develop with my patients and the community.  The strength of our community and the health of individuals are linked, and I feel so lucky to live in a part of the world where so many individuals care deeply about their fellow community members.  Hopefully together we can continue moving toward a place where everyone has the opportunity to achieve health and wellbeing – however they choose to define it. 

Dr. Katherine Krebsbach is a Family Medicine Doctor and the Interim Medical Director at Partnership Health Center in Missoula.