The first visit at a PH center can be very overwhelming. Many patients receive the news that they have a serious life threatening disease they have never heard of and are presented with treatment options including drugs they don’t know anything about. Many times the patient will be introduced to a team of people that will be helping to provide care for them going forward. It can be a lot to digest and a lot to keep track of.
So who are those people the physician introduced you to or talked about and what will their role be in your care?
• Physician: The physician is your pulmonary hypertension expert. They will examine you, order the appropriate tests and medications, answer questions, educate, and develop a treatment plan for you.
• PA (Physician Assistant) or NP (Nurse Practitioner): Many centers have one or two doctors and then several PAs or NPs who help deliver care to their patients. Every center is set up differently so make sure to ask who you will be seeing at your follow up visits.
• Nurse Coordinator: PH centers use highly trained nurse coordinators to….you guessed it…..coordinate patient care. The nurse coordinators will be your direct contact at the center and will answer your questions, provide education about everything PH, advocate for your needs with insurance companies, authorize and help obtain specialty drugs, communicate with the physician to help form the right treatment plan for you . Pretty much if a patient needs it a nurse coordinator will be there to do it.
• Schedulers or Referral Coordinators: Many centers have specific staff members that obtain insurance authorizations for office appointments and tests. It is important to always provide your most recent insurance information and phone number to this staff member or you could be waiting awhile for your next appointment or test.
• MA (Medical Assistant): The MA is responsible for updating your medication list, taking your vital signs, performing office testing such as six minute walks, administering injections such as flu shots, and refill medications. It is very important to bring an updated medication list to every appointment and present it to the MA when they ask for your current medications.
• Front Desk: There will always be someone to great you at the front desk. This person is the responsible for collecting your copays and checking you into the clinic. They will alert the MA that you have checked in and are ready to be roomed. In many clinics they will also be checking you out and scheduling our follow up appointments.
• Medical Records: Most clinics have a separate medical records department. Make sure to get your request for any medical records in as early as you can to ensure the staff member has enough time to get the records where they need to go.