Patient FAQ

Athens Heart Center and Specialty Clinics (AHC&SPC) is a multi-specialty group of healthcare practices and clinics which strive to achieve the highest levels of patient care, compassion, and innovation. Our system covers northeast Georgia and includes Athens Heart Center, Athens Sleep and Wellness Center, Family First Healthcare in Lavonia, Danielsville Family Practice, and Family First Healthcare in Athens. Our roots are in our local community, and we continue to treat every patient like family, while continually evaluating ourselves and improving.
We proudly welcome patients of all ages, backgrounds, and health situations, and no referral is needed. We also accept virtually every health insurance plan. For more information on insurances we work with, please see our billing page.
Simply call us at 1-844-641-0036 to make an appointment and we will guide you to the correct doctor. You can also visit our About Us page to learn more about our doctors and practitioners to request a specific provider.
We work closely with Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center and Saint Mary’s Hospital in Athens. Our physicians may treat you in these hospitals then follow up with you in one of our clinics. Our cardiologists also perform heart procedures in these hospitals. To see what procedures we provide, visit our Cardiology page or ask our doctors!
Our team understands what a hassle these areas can become, and we work hard to make the process as stress-free, fair, and helpful as possible. Please see our Billing page for payment and billing information and our Insurance page for what insurances we work with.
Absolutely. We are proud to offer a robust patient portal where you can access your medical records. See our Patient Portal page for information and instructions regarding the patient portal.
By evaluating your family history, risk factors, and genetics, we can provide easy, hassle-free preventive medical services which can save you thousands of healthcare dollars down the road. To learn more, visit our Preventative Services page. We also understand that no one wants to spend their free time at the doctor’s office, which is why we carry a full experienced staff daily and work efficiently to ensure your visit is as fast as possible. We are patients, too, and understand your life and schedule are busy.
We feel strongly that it is our duty and responsibility to help every patient, regardless of income or insurance. We offer a program called PCP (Physicians’ Circle for Patients) which can help you attain medical services and medications at reduced – or no – cost. To find out more, visit our Patient Assistance page.

New Patient

Please always check with your insurance carrier to see if your insurance plan requires a referral to see a specialist. Our office does our very best to assist and check every patients insurance, but ultimately it is your responsibility. If you fail to have the appropriate referral sent to our office your appointment will be cancelled. If you are seen and you have not gotten the appropriate referral you will be responsible for the bill. Most HMO insurance plans require a referral. If there is a primary care listed on your insurance card your plan more than likely will also require a referral.
If you are a new patient to our office please bring your completed new patient packet. If you have not received one via email or mail you can print one on this website under the FORMS link. Please select COMPLETE NEW PATIENT PACKET. If you have imaging results and notes from previous please bring them to your appointment. Please also bring your drivers license or other form of photo identification, your insurance card(s) and your copay, if you have one. Should you have any questions about the appropriate things to bring to our appointment please contact our office at 844-614-0036
The new patient packet is available online. Please print the packet, fill it out and bring it with you to your appointment. The paperwork can be found under the FORMS link.
If it is the day of your appointment and you have not received your new patient packet please make sure you arrive to your appointment at least 45 minutes ahead of your scheduled appointment time. This ensures we can get the paperwork filled out, get you checked in and have you roomed at ready for the physician at your scheduled appointment time. Failure to bring your paperwork or arrive at least 45 minutes in advance may result in your appointment being rescheduled.
Please speak to your physician regarding disability paperwork. It is sometimes better that it be done by a primary care physician or that you have a functional capacity exam so the paperwork can be filled out appropriately. Your physician will be able to guide you in this process. Please do not have disability paperwork requests sent to our office without speaking to your physician. There will an extra charge to fill out disability form and the fee will have to be paid before the form is completed.
Yes, please bring any of the written reports along with films and discs. The more information you are able to bring to your appointment the easier it is for our physicians to gather your complete history and move forward with the very best treatment plan for you.

General Questions

Absolutely! Our first priority is your health and safety. If there is another doctor that can perform a procedure that we cannot, or is a specialist in your condition or disease, we will not hesitate to refer you! We will however, always discuss options like referrals with our patients before any calls are made.
No, we refer patients to their local physical therapy location.
If you are experiencing a life threatening emergency please go to the nearest emergency room or call 911. If your matter is important, but not life threatening you may contact our on call service after hours by calling 1-844-614-0036.
In order to receive medication refills on any medication you must be seen in our office. NO EXCEPTION. We do not have a medication refill line or a person dedicated to do refills. Due to the nature of our practice all patients are required to be seen every 28 days. At their 28 day appointment any medications needed will be refilled. It is the patients responsibility to make sure they schedule their 28 day follow up appointment and arrive to the appointment.

Costs, Billing and Insurance

Please refer to our Insurance page for a full list of accepted insurance.
There are numerous insurance plans with slightly different rates. Coverage depends upon your individual insurance plan. If you are concerned about what your insurance carrier will pay please contact them in advance to see what your deductible, out of pocket and copay are. They will accurately be able to tell you what has been met and what portion you may be responsible for.
Yes. Our office is more than happy to arrange reasonable payments plans. It is best to contact our billing office by calling 844-614-0036 and making arrangements with them.
Please see our Insurance page for a complete list of accepted providers.
Yes, we are a Medicaid provider.
Please contact our billing office at 706-208-9700 or 1-844-641-0036
Please contact our billing department at 1-844-641-0036 or (706)208-9700

Frequently Asked Questions About Pain Management

No, most likely not. We will not be able to completely evaluate and prescribe medications for chronic pain without reviewing your medical records from previous pain physicians. It is your responsibility for getting the medical record to our office. We have found the best and most assured way to get your record to us is that you personally get your medical records to us rather than depending your previous physician staff to fax record to us. Even if you were previously prescribed a medication, pain medication is rarely our first treatment option, so do not expect a prescription on your first appointment.
No. Don't wait until pain becomes severe to take pain medication. Pain is easier to control when it is mild. You should take your pain medication regularly, just as prescribed. Sometimes this means taking medicine on a regular schedule, even when you don't feel pain.
Not necessarily, if you take your medication exactly as prescribed. A person's likelihood of becoming addicted depends, in part, on his or her addiction history. Addiction is less likely if you have never abused drugs or had an addictive disorder. Ask your doctor about any concerns you may have.
This situation occurs when you have developed tolerance to a drug. Tolerance is a normal physiological response to narcotics and occurs when the initial dose of a substance loses its effectiveness over time. Changing the dose or the medication often solves the problem. Just because you have become tolerant to a drug does not mean that you are addicted to that drug.
Yes. Your health care provider needs to assess your pain, so it is very important for your health care team to know if you are in pain.
No! Effective pain management allows people to be relieved of pain using different therapies so that they don’t rely solely on narcotic pain killers. The incidence of addiction to narcotic or morphine- like medications is about 3-5%. In people who use these medications for the treatment of chronic pain, the rate is about 1-3%. So, although the risk of addiction is present, it is a relatively low risk and for people who are suffering, the benefits greatly outweigh the risks. It is very important, though, that such medications be used under the direction of an experienced doctor who is able to identify and treat any problems. It is extremely important to realize; however, that prescription pain killer abuse is now the #1 type of abused substance surpassing marijuana. It is your responsibility to ensure that your medication isn’t taken by anyone else but you.
The answer to this question is different for everyone. In some cases, the medication allows the painful areas to “calm down” or heal after which time the medication can be discontinued. My goal for all patients is to incorporate other pain management therapies, such as physical therapy, to allow people to more easily discontinue their medications.There are other types of pain problems called “degenerative or progressive” such that the abnormality is expected to continue and therefore medication will need to be continued on a long term basis. Sometimes it’s difficult to predict who will need long term treatment and who won’t. This is why regular assessment of pain issues and adjustments in therapies and medications as symptoms change, are important.
It is a little confusing, but a number of antidepressants have actually been found to help ease chronic pain. The effect these medicines have on pain is separate from their effect on mood. There are many things about chronic pain that we do not understand. However, it seems that imbalances in chemicals involved in pain perception and transmission may play a role. In low doses antidepressants seem to adjust these chemicals. As a result, they are a common and useful way to treat chronic pain. As with all medicines, unwanted side effects can occur. For this reason you should always talk with your doctor about how well the medicine is working in your body and any side effects you may have.
The best way to avoid chronic pain is to treat acute pain aggressively and appropriately. For example, when a person first experiences severe pain, anti-inflammatory medications like Ibuprofen help promote healing and prevent abnormal pain impulses from developing. Prolonged, severe pain can cause anxiety, depression and insomnia which in turn decrease a person’s pain tolerance. Pain causes depression which causes more pain. This “Cycle of Pain” can be very difficult to break once it starts. This is why it is important to see a Pain Management specialist when the usual treatments aren’t working.
Even if your symptoms sound exactly like your neighbor’s, it is most likely that the two of you are still having different problems. Patients often ask me if they can take the same medication that their friend is taking, but it’s not that simple. Doctors treat the problem not just the symptoms. Different problems oftentimes cause similar symptoms, but because they are different problems each person needs to be treated individually. Talk to your doctor about other options for your problem or ask to be referred to a Pain Management specialist.
In Acute Pain problems, such as a sprained ankle or a burn, the pain is a “signal” to the person that something is wrong and alerts that person to stop doing a certain activity. In Chronic Pain problems, the pain is no longer a helpful tool. Because of an abnormal process within the nerves, pain is being produced even though there is no longer ongoing injury to a particular body part. Using medication in order to decrease the pain and increase activity is a very important part of getting better. As a person moves around more, those abnormal pain signals can “die out”. You should always talk to your physician for specific directions regarding your condition.
“Addiction” is the irrational use of drugs or medications despite harmful consequences. Addiction is a bio-physio-psychological phenomenon which is diagnosed based on a dangerous behavior pattern. If you are not misusing your medication, such as taking more than has been prescribed or using it for reasons other than pain relief, it is unlikely that you are addicted.There is a phenomenon called “Physical dependence” which is the natural effect of using narcotic medications. Essentially, over time, your body gets used to the medication and if you abruptly stop taking it, you will experience withdrawal side effects. Withdrawal side effects are avoided by slowly weaning the medication off and are not an indication of addiction. Many other types of non-addictive medicines can produce withdrawal effects if abruptly discontinued.
Anyone who has a pain problem which has not been eased with the help of your primary care doctor and the usual medications should be evaluated by a doctor who is specially trained to treat various pain problems. As with any type of physician, you should seek a doctor who has completed a fellowship program and is Board Certified in Pain Management. The doctor will devise a plan to ease the pain and improve your ability to enjoy activities which the pain may have been preventing. This plan is very individualized and may consist of medications, special pain relief injections or specific exercises to ease the pain. People who suffer from chronic pain may develop sleep problems or depression. A Pain management specialist is trained to treat all aspects of your health which may be affected by your pain problem.
The most effective medication depends on what is causing the pain. For example, narcotic medications are very helpful for certain severe pain problems, but may do very little to help pain which is due to chronic tissue inflammation, muscle spasm or nerve irritation. All pain problems cannot be alleviated with the same medication. To make matters more complex, different people may respond to the same medication in different ways. One person may have great pain relief with medication A and another person may not have any relief with the same medication. This is why a doctor’s full evaluation is necessary before prescribing any pain medication in order to identify all of the possible factors which may be causing the chronic pain situation.
Yes, especially if the pain problem is addressed early. Oftentimes, pain can be alleviated or stopped by using specific exercises and stretches. Physical therapy offers a variety of non- medicinal treatments which are effective in reducing pain. This helps people to get back to a previous level of activity following an injury and also decreases the chances of a repeat injury. Weight loss, smoking cessation and proper posture/ lifting techniques can especially help back, knee, hip and neck problems.
Pain management specialists use injections to quickly alleviate multiple types of pain. The most common type is the epidural injection, for back or neck pain, but many other types are available to ease the pain. The injections consist of local anesthetic, aka numbing medication, with or without a steroid. The local anesthetic provides immediate pain relief by blocking the nerves that carry the pain signal and the steroid decreases inflammation and helps the tissues to heal. The injected steroid is much more effective than a steroid pill because it is placed directly onto the inflamed tissues. Also, because it doesn’t have to be absorbed into the bloodstream to get to the site of pain, the risk of side effects is much less.
Unfortunately, patients are often referred to doctors who will perform an injection and never see them again for follow- up pain management instructions or long term treatment options. The difference between these “injectionists” and a Pain Management specialist is that the specialist will “blend” several therapies so that the person receives the best chance at long term pain relief. Epidural injections are highly effective, but only if they are used within a specific treatment plan with close follow-up after the injection. You should ask your primary care doctor for a referral to a Pain Management specialist for long term treatment options.
Cancer related pain is notoriously difficult to treat. This type of pain is most effectively treated with a combination of two or three types of pain medications which work together to relieve pain without causing excess sleepiness. Some cancer patients are candidates for the “morphine pump”. This allows the patient to receive very small doses of morphine directly into the spinal fluid. This technique gives the best pain control without sedation and removes the need to take pills altogether. A Pain Management specialist can evaluate your mother and devise a plan to help control her pain without the side effects which are currently affecting her quality of life.
A spinal cord stimulator is a devise which is very helpful for pain that involves damaged nerves. It is most commonly used for pain in the arms or legs. Essentially, this device “turns off” the pain signals which are sent out from damaged or abnormal nerves. The pain sensation is replaced by a gentle “electrical massage” sensation. The person undergoes a temporary trial use to ensure that the stimulator will relieve at least 60% of the pain. After a successful trial, the stimulator is permanently implanted under the skin, like a pacemaker.
It’s very important that you discuss your concerns with your doctor who prescribed it. Neurontin is a good medication for many pain problems. There is no medication that is perfect for everyone, but your doctor prescribed the Neurontin because she/he believed that it is right for you. Always discuss your concerns with your doctor before making any changes to his/her recommendations. The T.V. and internet are NOT the best sources for your medical advice.
Ice is a natural pain reliever because it slows nerve conduction and numbs the tissues. In this way, it prevents the pain information from reaching the brain. Ice also slows the inflammatory response to injury by decreasing swelling. Ice tends to be more helpful for acute injuries and pain although it can also help with chronic pain.
Heat can be very helpful for chronic pain for two major reasons. One, it causes increased blood flow to tissues. This allows more oxygen to reach the tissues and also flushes out toxins. Two, it allows muscles and ligaments to stretch more easily which will help alleviate painful spasms.
It depends on the plan of care that your doctor has in mind for you. Some patients need only one visit for treatment suggestions that their family doctor can carry out. Other patients may need to see their pain management doctor 2 to 4 times per month depending on the severity of their pain. For example, if I prescribe a patient a strong pain medication, I oftentimes reevaluate them after 2 weeks in order to ensure that they are doing well without any side effects and that no adjustment in the medication is needed.
The most common side effects include sleepiness and constipation. People who are very sensitive to these types of medications may also experience itching, nausea, dizziness, hallucinations or changes in memory and thinking. Alcohol and sedatives and even allergy medications make these symptoms worse. Anyone who needs pain medication should never drink alcohol or use similar medications without their doctor’s knowledge.
Pain that is “all in the head” is not very common. The medical term is Somatization. Some people do turn the emotional symptoms of anxiety or depression into the physical symptom of pain. It is more common; however, for people with physical pain to have more intense pain because of their anxiety or depression. Anxiety and depression lower people’s pain tolerance. Although it’s not all in their head, emotional disturbances definitely worsen the pain problem. This is why it is important for people with chronic pain to also see a psychiatrist to have those emotional issues treated at the same time as their physical pain issues.
There are many reasons. Sometimes after surgery scar tissue or adhesions can form. This can cause pain by pinching or pushing on the nerve tissue in the back. Also, some surgery can cause adjacent areas of the back to degenerate or weaken over time. The spine is a very complex network of ligament, muscle, bone and nerve tissues all of which may cause pain due to injury alone or in combination with each other.
Most pain medications are meant to be used for short term pain problems such as after surgery or for an acute injury. Those medications typically provide pain relief for only 3 to 4 hours and then they wear off. Medications that provide pain relief for 8 to 24 hours at a time are better for chronic pain problems. One pill is slowly released into the blood stream to provide superior pain relief that lasts longer. Studies have also shown that slow-release pain medications cause a lesser incidence of tolerance and work very effectively at the same dose for years
You must tell your admitting physicians that you have chronic pain and on chronic pain medication and must tell them from where you get medications Regulations allow for oral pain medications to be ordered for patients on an “as needed” basis. It is the attending physician who decide whether they will restart your home medication or not depending your condition for which you are admitted. you must follow your pain prescription agreement when you are discharge from the hospital.
The most common pain medications in pill form used are Norco (hydrocodone/acetaminophen) and Percocet (oxycodone/acetaminophen). Depending on your pain level, both can be quite efficient with few side effects. It is common to be started on one of these medications and then changed on to another.
Drowsiness Dizziness Light-headedness Nausea Vomiting Constipation Dry mouth Sweating Itching Most of these side effects are mild and can easily be controlled with medications while here at the Hospital. A rash is NOT an expected side effect and may be an indication that you are allergic to the medication you are taking – if this happens, please tell your doctor immediately.
It is very rare that patients become addicted to pain medications following their surgery. Though long term use (many weeks to months) may increase your risk of getting accustomed to a current dose of medication so that you require an increased dose in order to experience pain relief, most patients undergoing routine orthopedic surgery only need pain medications for a short time. The risk of dependence or addiction, therefore, is quite low.
No. Don’t wait until pain becomes severe to take pain medication. Pain is easier to control when it is mild. You should take your pain medication regularly, just as prescribed. Sometimes this means taking medicine on a regular schedule, even when you don’t feel pain.
You might notice at times that you are in more pain than usual (such as at the end of a tiring day or as a result of certain activities). If you notice that certain activities contribute to your pain, or that you feel worse at certain times of the day, medication can be taken prior to the activity (or time of day) to help prevent the pain from occurring. Always be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions. Friends and family can help by encouraging you to live as normally and independently as possible.
Yes, patients prescribed schedule II drugs need to be evaluated and monitored according to Georgia Law.

Record Request FAQ

It generally takes 7-10 business days from the receipt of the request to complete a request for records.
If you are only requesting the records pertaining to your last visit at AHCSPC, there is no fee. If you are requesting additional records, we charge a $30 flat fee, which results from rules governed by the state and federal government. Please see the links above for more information.
Yes, for AHCSPC, outside records are re-released for all record request types, unless specifically instructed otherwise by the patient/requester.
No, your AHCSPC medical records are grouped and stored in the same Electronic Health Records system, which is central and common to all AHCSPC facilities.
The authorization form expires 90 days from the date it is signed, unless the requestor indicates a specific date on the form.

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