A little planning can go a long way in making your doctor’s visit more valuable. Patients who understand their diagnosis and treatment plan tend to be more effective in managing their health. Your appointment is your time to ask any questions you have or ask for information to be repeated. Here are a few tips to ensure you fully understand how you can be your own best health advocate.
Planning before the appointment
Take some time to think about the purpose of the visit. Does it relate to recent symptoms that are unusual or to a health maintenance appointment (annual physical exam)? Remember to prepare a list of questions you would like to ask.
If you’re coming in to discuss recent concerns, consider how you’ll describe what you’re experiencing. Think about how long you’ve had the symptoms, the severity, other associated symptoms, and the parts of your body that are affected. Try to keep it simple and to the point.
When scheduling a physical, keep in mind that the purpose of this visit is to focus on health maintenance. Depending on your age and gender, your doctor may want to talk about things such as your last pap smear and pelvic exam, your last PSA or prostate exam, bone density testing, cholesterol and diabetes screening, mammograms, dental and eye exams, colon cancer screening, etc. If there are other issues you’d like to discuss unrelated to the physical, it may be better to schedule a separate appointment.
Changing clinics or physicians
It is very important to get your records transferred to your new clinic as soon as possible, so your doctor can thoroughly understand your current medical needs and past medical history. This is especially important if you have a complicated medical record or a complex or chronic condition. Bring all of the medications you are taking (including over-the-counter medications and supplements) in their original containers to every visit. Lists alone often tend to be incorrect or incomplete.
Another pair of ears
Lastly, it is helpful to bring someone with you to your appointment. Valuable information is less likely to be forgotten or misunderstood. You may even want your friend or family member to take notes for you.
Reprinted from the Passport Advisor newsletter