Making the Most of Your Doctor’s Visit

Many of us have experienced visiting our doctor and, when relaying the situation to our loved ones afterwards, realizing that we may have forgotten to ask important questions or that we are unable to summarize what the doctor told us.  For those who visit the doctor frequently or who are unfamiliar with medical jargon, going to the doctor can be a stressful and time consuming endeavor.  Therefore, we have a few suggestions to help you make the most out of each appointment.

Keep a medical binder.  The binder can be as fancy as something from an office supplies store with tabs or as simple as a folder.  The important thing is that you can use it to easily find the information you need.

Use the medical binder for each appointment or communication.  The binder can be used to keep your notes, list of prescriptions, health insurance information, test results, business cards, list of hospitalizations, contact information for medical providers and pharmacies, etc.  The binder may also be a good place to keep an extra set of your executed health care power of attorney and living will.

Prior to your appointment, write down why you are visiting the doctor and the questions you have.  It may also be helpful to document your symptoms, and include when they started, the frequency, if something causes the symptoms to worsen, and how it impacts your life.

Know, and communicate, your family medical history.  If you are computer savvy, it is helpful to type up what you know and then edit it as you continue to learn more.           

Document your medical history, and include dates of treatment, treating physician, prognosis, and medication prescribed.  You may also wish to include your immunization history and information on chronic illnesses.

Ask a loved one to accompany you to the visit.  It can be helpful to have two sets of ears!  You may also want to ask your doctor’s permission to record the visit, especially if you do not have a loved one joining you.

Bring your eyeglasses or hearing aides to the visit.

Confirm you have been properly checked in if you are waiting for an unreasonable amount of time.  Many doctors’ offices have a sign posted that asks patients to remind them if you have been waiting for more than 30 minutes.

Take notes at every appointment, even when you have a telephone conversation with the nurse and not an office visit.  If your doctor remarks that your blood pressure is a little high and he or she wants to keep an eye on it, write it down so you can remember to follow-up on this issue at the next appointment.  If your doctor is unavailable, write down the name of the treating physician.

Ask questions.  If your doctor uses a term you are unfamiliar with, ask what it means and write it down.

Bring a list of your prescriptions.  Again, it may be easy to save a list on your computer so you can add or remove prescriptions as your situation changes.

Ask if your prescriptions have any side effects or if they interfere with your other medication or if you should avoid taking them with certain foods or beverages that may reduce their effectiveness.  Ask the same of your pharmacist.          

Quickly summarize the situation with the doctor before leaving your appointment to confirm you understand the information provided by the doctor and know what to do next. 

Ask the best way to communicate with your doctor in between visits.  The doctor may have a nurse assistant hotline or share his or her email address.

If you undergo testing, ask your doctor how you will receive your test results.  Will they call you or send a letter?  Are you expected to schedule an appointment to review the results in person?

Write down the next step.  Is it to schedule a follow-up appointment in six weeks?  Fill a prescription?  Call only as needed? 

Review your prior notes before the next appointment.  This is a good way to spend your time in the waiting room.

If you do not need to shop around for the least expensive prescription, try to go to the same pharmacy so the pharmacist may recognize drug interactions. 

If your doctor refers you to another doctor, confirm you know who is going to initiate the appointment and when.  Is the new doctor going to contact you, or should you contact their office? 

Do your research – but keep in mind the source.  The internet is full of wonderful websites, but the information is not always accurate.  And that family medical encyclopedia can be helpful, but not if it is from 1978.

– Posted by Amanda Buzo


Posted in Blog, Wellness.