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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get my medical records transferred to NEIFPC?

You have a choice. You may either contact your previous healthcare provider and request that your records be transferred to our office. They will send them to: Northeast Iowa Family Practice Center, Attn: Medical Records, 2055 Kimball Ave, Suite 101, Waterloo, IA 50702. They will direct you as to the steps you will need to take. Or you may come into our office and sign a Release of Information form. This will help us to contact your previous healthcare provider and have them send us a copy of your healthcare records directly.

A PSA of 4.2 was discovered on my recent screening blood test for prostate cancer. I am a 45 year old male with no symptoms.

Normal PSA ranges are from 0-4.0. However this range includes men of all ages. At 45 years of age, your PSA should be lower than that of older males. A mild elevation often represents prostatitis, which isn't serious and can be treated with antibiotics. Screening criteria for prostate cancer are very controversial because even though it leads to earlier detection, there is inconclusive evidence that early detection improves health outcomes. The most potential benefit is to those ages 50-70 (starting at 45 in African Americans or those with a close relative with prostate cancer).

Are you accepting new patients?

Yes. We have 24 family practice physicians and 1 Physician's Assistant seeing patients at the Northeast Iowa Family Practice Center. We ask our new patients to come in 15 minutes prior to their scheduled appointment time to fill out new patient history and insurance information. We also urge new patients to bring previous medical records, if available, and a list of their current medications. If you don't have a list, please just bring the bottles. 

Are your doctors Board Certified?

All of our physicians are licensed by the State of Iowa, and all of our faculty physicians are Board Certified. Board Certification is obtained through the American Board of Family Medicine. In order to receive that certification, a physician must complete three years of training in the specialty of Family Medicine. That is what the resident physicians are working toward as they go through their residency. Once they complete the three years, they become Board eligible and will take the nationally recognized examination for Board Certification.

At 20 years old, do I need a "complete physical" with diagnostic testing like those you performed on my parents recently?

Complete physicals are now called annual wellness visits (AWV). Health recommendations vary with age, gender, family history and what we refer to as risk factors. Research tells us that the typical "complete physical" of the past actually did very little to find or prevent disease. So we now use these annual wellness visits to target those conditions patients are at risk for at that particular point in their life. At age 50, we are aggressively screening for cancers, diabetes and heart disease. At age 20, you are at greater risk from STD and hepatitis exposure, accidents and depression. Your "complete physical" should include a history and physical examination, but also focus on counseling for lifestyle modification, (i.e. smoking cessation, exercise, weight loss, skin cancer protection and STD education). Lifestyle modification at age 20 will greatly impact your quality of life, morbidity and mortality later in life.

Do I have to take medicine to control my blood pressure?

In recent years, we have learned more about the benefits of controlling blood pressure more aggressively which reduces risk for strokes and heart attacks. Although we recommend eating a low-salt diet, being active, smoking cessation, and losing weight... often medications are needed as well. Sometimes more than one medication is required but your doctor will start you out on one and monitor your blood pressure and only add additional as needed for good control. 

Do you accept Title IX?

 Yes. We take all types of Title 19.  

Do you give free pregnancy tests?

We provide free pregnancy testing outside an appointment if someone walks in and requests one. They will meet with a nurse who will discuss testing and results with them. We offer OB care in our office and deliver at both Unity Point Health - Allen Hospital or MercyOne Waterloo Medical Center. 

Do you take care of newborns?

Yes. We can follow the mother throughout the pregnancy, labor and delivery, and then take care of the baby. Family Practice physicians are uniquely trained to cover all facets of the family care- newborn to geriatric care.

Does avoiding salt really lower my blood pressure?

For some people the answer is a clear yes, but for most it probably makes very little difference. The best way to know how sensitive your blood pressure is to salt intake is to decrease your salt intake and check your blood pressure. While salt intake often has little impact, losing 5-15 pounds of excess weight often has a large impact on your blood pressure. Exercise, eating nutritious foods, limiting or avoiding alcohol, and losing excess weight are very important for maintaining good health and controlling high blood pressure. If your family doctor has prescribed medication for you high blood pressure, taking your medicine consistently every day is crucial. Finally, quitting smoking has been shown to lower your blood pressure in minutes.

Hormone replacement therapy, is it still safe?

In the past we routinely prescribed hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to post menopausal women not only because it is beneficial for menopausal symptoms, but because we thought it would help have overall health benefits. Recent studies have shown that the risks may outweigh the benefits. The use of HRT for more than five years was found to decrease the risk of fractures and colon cancer, but increase the risk for breast cancer, blood clots, and strokes by about eight more events per 10,000 women/year. HRT still has a place in women's health when necessary, but for the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time.

How can I tell whether my headaches are migraines or tension type and is there a difference in treatment?

Tension headaches are usually located over the entire head, feel like a band and are often associated with tense neck muscles. Migraine headaches are more likely to be located on one side, more severe and throbbing, and associated with nausea and vomiting plus sensitivity to light and sound. They often have aura (warning signs) such as mood changes and visual disruptions. Medications to help prevent migraines are plentiful and more likely to be successful than those for tension headaches. Early use of triptans during the mild phase of migraine is usually helpful. Rescue pain medication ranging from aspirin to narcotics are frequently necessary.

How do I get a copy of my medical records?

You will need to stop at the reception desk and fill out a Release of Information form. That form is sent to the Medical Records Department where they will copy your records and forward them to your new healthcare provider. If you do not have a new provider, or would rather hand carry them to your new provider, once the copy is made, we will call you and you can come to the office and pick them up. We do charge a fee to cover copy costs as well as personnel time, and, if requested, you will be given an estimate on the charges prior to the work being done.

How do I get a prescription refilled?

Our telephone system is set up with an Automated Prescription Request line. Dial 319-272-2112 and follow the prompt to prescription refills. If you have questions or do not have your prescription information, you may select the Triage Nurse prompt on the phone system and discuss your refills with her.  Another option is to call your local pharmacy direct with your prescription number.  Our Pharmacy Directory is also located online.   

How do I know if I have diabetes and how can I control it?

Diabetes is an increasingly common disease in which the blood sugar becomes higher than normal. Most diabetics are type 2 where there may be no symptoms at all for many years. When blood sugars become severly elevated, symptoms that appear include large volumes of urine, intense thirst resulting in drinking large quantities of fluids, fatigue, and, sometimes, blurriness around lights at night. Type 2 diabetes can often be controlled initially without medication just by diet, exercise, and weight loss. There are many effective oral medications. All type 1 and many type 2 diabetes will require insulin. Tight control of the blood sugars reduces the risk of complications. 

I am concerned about a friend who I suspect may be suffering from depression. Can you tell me the symptoms of depression?

Symptoms of major depression include:

  • No interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Depressed mood
  • Feeling slowed down or feeling restless
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Appetite disturbance
  • Thoughts about suicide
  • Concentration impairment
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Fatigue.

Someone with major depression has at least five of these symptoms lasting for two weeks or longer. More than 80% of depressed patients will respond to at least one of several available antidepressant medications. Counseling with a mental health therapist can add to the effectiveness of drugs. Treatment needs to continue four to twelve months after full recover is achieved.

I don't have insurance coverage. Can I still come to your office?

Yes. There are other methods for payment. We accept cash, check and credit cards, or you may visit with our credit advisor to work out a payment plan.

I have my annual pelvic exam and breast exam with my GYN doctor. Do I still need a physical from my family doctor?

Yes. There is much more involved in an adult health examination than a pelvic exam, Pap smear, and breast examination. Your physician will screen for early detection and possible prevention of diseases such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, lipid disorders (cholesterol levels) and osteoporosis. Your family physician will be screening for other, non gynecological problems such as depression and other high risk factors based on family history. In addition, your physician should cover topics such as living wills and age appropriate risk factors for you, such as nutrition, seat belts, wearing a helmet, or working to prevent falls or accidents in your home. Many adults have chronic conditions that should be monitored regularly that would not be routine during a visit to your gynecologist. While we would not want to interrupt your relationship with your gynecologist, our physicians routinely include gynecologic exams as part of the adult health exams for our female patients.

I recently heard that high cholesterol could contribute to heart disease. Should I have my cholesterol checked?

Elevated cholesterol levels can contribute to heart disease. Some current guidelines recommend that a total cholesterol, LDL or "bad cholesterol", HDL or "good cholesterol", and triglycerides be drawn in a fasting state for all individuals after the age of 20, and every 5 years thereafter if the initial test is normal. Other guidelines recommend that screening begins at age 35 in men and at age 45 in women unless they have other risk factors including diabetes, high blood pressure, tobacco use, or a family history of early heart disease. Your doctor should advise you.

I'm diabetic, how should I be caring for my feet?

Foot problems are one of the great concerns of any patient with diabetes. The higher than normal blood sugar levels with diabetes damages the blood vessels and nerves in your body. This may cause burning pain or numbness in your feet and impair the normal blood flow that allows for nomal healing. This can make it difficult for you to know if you have a blister or sore, which can get worse and even require hospitalization and intra-venous antibiotics, and what we all hope to avoid, the possibility of needing an amputation if the blister or sore becomes too sever. What to do? First, keep your blood sugar as normal as possible. Keep your feet clean and dry. Check them everyday, with a mirror if needed. Call your doctor at the first sign of redness, swelling, or pain that doesn't go away, and don't go barefoot!

If I am admitted to the hospital, who would take care of me?

Family Practice has an In-Patient Team of physicians. There are four resident physicians led by a faculty physician. If your primary physician is not on the hospital team that week, then your physician is advised once you are admitted. Communication between your physician and the Team is ongoing. Most hospital stays will require a follow-up visit in the office sometime after you are discharged and you will see your primary physician.

Is there a right way to wash your hands?

A timely question coming into cold and flu season, proper hand washing is one of the best ways to decrease your odds of becoming sick and/or spreading illnesses to other people. But people often don’t wash their hands long enough. Your hands should be washed with warm running water and soap, scrubbing the hands for at least 20 seconds and rinsing well. Leave the water running until after drying your hands, and then you should use the towel to turn the faucet off. Otherwise you recontaminate your hands. How long is 20 seconds? — about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” through twice.

Is vaginal discharge normal?

Yes, it may be. The vagina is a self-cleansing organ. Often, what you see is a clear or white thin discharge made up of the dead cells being removed. Your cervix normally produces mucus in relation to your monthly hormonal changes, and you may also experience this as a discharge. You should see your family doctor if the discharge has a gray, yellow, or green color. Also, if you are having blood in the discharge, if the discharge has a foul odor, or if you have associated itching or burning, these may indicate an abnormal discharge needing treatment by your doctor.

I’ve been having a lot of headaches lately, should I worry about them?

Headaches are very common and occur usually during stressful situations. Typical tension headaches are worse as the day goes on, worse when we try to rest at the end of the day, and more frequent as the stress increases. They are usually on both sides of the head, often starting in the back of head or neck, and usually get better with Tylenol, heating pads, and after resting for awhile. Warning signs of potentially more severe headaches including severe pain, nausea/vomiting, light sensitivity, pain that wakes you up in the morning, visual problems, dizziness or weakness. If your headaches are accompanied by those things or other concerning symptoms, you should see your family doctor.

My child has a fever. Should I worry?

A fever can be caused by a number of things, but in a child it is usually a sign that the body is fighting an infection, creating an environment that is inhospitable to the infectious agent. And for this reason, the fever is actually a good thing. Although high fevers should be treated, often you can let your child's appearance guide you. If the child appears otherwise comfortable and behaving normally, a lower grade fever (100-101°F) can be watched as it is doing its job to rid your child of the infection. Some important numbers to keep in mind though: any temperature higher than 100.4°F in a child less than 3 months needs to be brought to the attention of your doctor. We also advise parents to call your physician if their child has a fever that is not responding to medication, or has persisted intermittently for more than 24 hrs. If in doubt, always call your physician.

Should I get the flu vaccine?

CDC recommends that people should get their seasonal flu vaccine as soon as vaccine becomes available in their community. Vaccination before December is best since this timing ensures that protective antibodies are in place before flu activity is typically at its highest. CDC continues to encourage people to get vaccinated throughout the flu season, which can begin as early as October and last as late as May. Over the course of the flu season, many different influenza viruses can circulate at different times and in different places. As long as flu viruses are still spreading in the community, vaccination can provide protective benefit. 

What are some things I can do to reduce my acne flare-ups?

Some  bad habits can worsen acne, including chocolate, coffee, soda, and other caffeinated beverages. Avoiding those, or at least limiting those will help some people. The worst offenders, however, are make-ups, soaps, and facial moisturizers. Even the “non-comeodogenic” products still can aggravate acne. Finally, stress usually brings out more acne. The better you handle stress, particularly at holiday times, the less your acne will bother you. Physical activity, relaxation techniques and just plain fun activities are good stress relievers. If all of those fail, then see your family doctor for treatment options.

What are the signs of diabetes?

Frequently signs of diabetes can be very non-specific. The classic symptoms are increased appetite, excessive thirst, and frequent urination. It can also lead to decreased resistance to infection, especially urinary tract infections and yeast infections, as well as subtle yet progressive change in vision. People with a family history of diabetes or who are overweight are at an increased risk. Diabetic complications can lead to loss of eyesight, kidney function, or even limbs as well as contributing to strokes and heart disease, so if you think you may have diabetes, see your physician.

What Insurances do you accept?

We accept all major insurances including Medicare, Medicaid, Wellmark, United Healthcare and most managed care plans. However, we would urge you to call your insurance company to verify covered services on your plan. For more information, you may call our insurance department at 319-272-2112 and follow the prompts.

What is a residency program?

The Family Medicine Residency Program is the branch of the Northeast Iowa Medical Education Foundation which provides physicians with three years of postgraduate training in the specialty of family medicine. During their training, resident physicians provide comprehensive health care under the supervision of board certified family medicine physicians. Upon graduation, these physicians provide a source of family physicians choosing to practice in this and surrounding communities. During their three-year training program, the physicians receive training in internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, surgery, pediatrics, emergency medicine, family medicine, community medicine, psychiatry and behavioral science, orthopedics, otorhinolaryngology, ophthalmology and dermatology. In addition, they may use elective time to concentrate on specialties and sub-specialties of their choice.

What is Accutane? Will is cure my acne?

Isotretinoin, or Accutane, is a prescription medication used to treat very bad acne. It is usually not the first medication used, and if prescribed, it is important for you to take it the right way. Typically Accutane is reserved for patients with a sever form of acne called nodular cystic acne. These patients are prone to fairly significant scarring and for these patients, Accutane is often preceived as a wonder drug. However, it does have serious potential side effects you should know about before taking, and all patients are required to go through extensive counseling and monitoring. Family physicians that prescribe it must also follow very strict guidelines. If you have sever acne and have been unsatisfied with other treatments, contact your doctor if isotretinoin might be an option for you.

What is colposcopy?

Colposcopy is a procedure commonly performed in the office for women who have had abnormal PAP smears or have genital skin lesions. PAP smears and pelvic exams are screening exams. If your PAP smear returns with abnormal cells or if the physician detects an abnormal area of skin in your genital area, your physician may need to look at your cervix or genital tissue through a special microscope called a colposcope. Your physician can identify abnormal cells by the instrument's magnification which would not be visible to the naked eye. Often, a solution is applied to the area to help identify abnormal cells. Your physician may also perform a biopsy (take a sample of tissue) during this procedure to send to pathology. Colposcopy is not needed for all women; tell your doctor if you have concerns or quetions regarding this procedure.

What is GERD?

GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) is often known as heartburn. Symptoms may include burping, swallowing difficulty, bloating, or a burning sensation in the chest. Risk increases with stress, overeating, smoking and excessive alcohol use. Reducing the amount of fats, spices, coffee, tea, tomato products and deep-fried foods in the diet may help. Elevating the head of the bed 4-6 inches and losing weight may also help. For minor discomfort, you can use over-the-counter medications such as antacids, Zantac or Prilosec. It can also represent serious problems such as ulcer or heart disease. If frequent or severe, see your physician.

What is the difference between an M.D. and a D.O.?

An M.D. is a Doctor of Medicine and a D.O. is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. They basically cover the same subjects during four years of medical school and can choose to practice and become board certified in any specialty. A Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine has some additional training in musculoskeletal medicine, including osteopathic manipulative treatments, which they may include in their practice.

When should I worry about my baby's constipation?

First, we must understand that in infants, constipation is not necessarily defined by the number of or frequency of bowel movements. As physicians, we are concerned if the stool is hard or pellet-like, if there is bright red blood streaking the stool or on the paper after wiping, or if the infant appears to have undue discomfort or difficulty passing the stool. Especially in breast-fed babies, it is not unusual to only have a couple stools per week. If you are concerned about your infant, call your family doctor; do not switch to feeding the infant water.

Which hospital(s) do your doctors go to?

Family Practice physicians admit patients at both Allen Memorial Hospital and Covenant Medical Center.

Who should be tested for HIV?

HIV is a virus transmitted by contaminated body fluids including blood, semen, and vaginal secretions. Persons may be exposed through sexual contact, sharing needles, or from other exposures to infected fluids, such as in occupational needle sticks. Any person who has a known exposure to such body fluids that may be infected should be tested. It is now recommended that all pregnant women be tested routinely. Talk to your doctor about HIV testing; it could save your life and that of someone you love.

Why are some of your doctors called residents?

Once physicians receive a Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree, they continue training at the post-graduate level in a residency program for a specific specialty such as Family Medicine. They are referred to as resident physicians during their three year residency in Family Medicine.

Why do I need to contact my doctor if I am traveling out of the country?

Contacting your physician prior to international travel is very important. Many areas of the world have diseases which are not common here in the United States. You may need special vaccinations or medications to prevent these infections. If you are taking any prescription medications, you will need an extra supply and written prescriptions to help you pass through international customs. Your family doctor can also give you advice about over-the-counter medications you may want to take with you, how to prevent many illnesses, and what to do about an illness should it occur out of the country.

Why does my doctor want me to take prenatal vitamins when I am not pregnant?

With our trend toward fast-food diets, we could probably all use a multi-vitamin daily. For those women of child-bearing age, we routinely recommend prenatal vitamins on a daily basis, not just during pregnancy. Menstruating women can use the extra iron to help prevent anemia, sometimes associated with monthly blood loss. Calcium early in life may help prevent osteoporosis as we age. Many vital organs in a fetus, such as the neural tube, are formed prior to knowledge of pregnancy. By taking prenatal vitamins routinely, the fetus has the needed vitamins and minerals at the time of development. Once delivered, moms also can use the extra nutrients during breastfeeding or recovering from blood loss at the time of delivery.

Will my doctor call in a prescription for me without being seen in the office?

It varies depending on a number of factors such as if the prescription is new or a refill, how long it’s been since you were seen, if it is an ongoing problem or new symptoms. These types of decisions are made based on what is in the best interest of the patient. More often than not, the provider will want to see you to be sure you are receiving the right medication.

Will my regular doctor deliver my baby?

In most all instances, yes. The Family Practice Center physicians make every effort to see their own obstetrical patients throughout the pregnancy and into the labor and delivery process.

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