How to Make the Most of Your Appointment
Most of us know the frustration of waiting in a doctor’s office. It may be busy and distracting. It can make you feel nervous, scared, and impatient. You may get annoyed because you are not getting other things done. Then you see the doctor and the visit seems so short. You may only have a few minutes to get your concerns across. Later on, you might remember something you forgot to ask. Knowing how to talk to your health care provider will help you get the information you need. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your appointment.
Make a list. Before your appointment, make a list of what you want to ask. If you lose paper, use your phone.
When you’re in the waiting room, review your list and organize your thoughts. You can share the list with your
Describe your symptoms. Tell your doctor the story of how you feel. Say when your symptoms started. Say how
they make you feel. Say what makes you feel worse and better. The more information you can provide, the better
your provider will understand how to help.
Bring a list of your medications. All medications are different. It may not be enough to say you’re on something for
your blood pressure. Your provider needs to know what prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications,
vitamins, herbal products, and other supplements you are using. Everything you take has the potential to interact
with other drugs and your body in good and bad ways.
Be honest about your diet, exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug use, and sexual activity. Not sharing
information with your doctor or nurse can be harmful. It can prevent a treatment plan that might help you.
Mention any other doctors who may be treating you. You may receive better healthcare if your doctors are able
to communicate. Be sure to mention if you are seeing any mental health professionals. Your mental health can
affect other medical conditions.
Ask questions about any tests and your results. Be sure to understand instructions before tests. For example, ask
if you have to be a “fasting state” for blood draws. Ask if there are any side effects. Ask how to find out what your
results are and how long they will take.
Ask questions about your condition or illness. You are the most important person in understanding your disease
process. Ask what you can do to feel better. Ask about your treatment options and what to expect. Ask what your
doctor recommends, if it is covered by your health insurance, and how much it will cost.
Tell your doctor or nurse if you are pregnant or intend to become pregnant. Some medications may not be safe
for you or a baby.
Ask about medications. Make sure you understand how to use your medications. The following questions are
important to consider: What should I do if I miss a dose? Are there any foods I should avoid when taking the
medication? Is there a generic brand that may be cheaper? Should I be concerned about any side effects?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something. If you are not clear on something, ask for it
to be explained again. If it helps you remember, take notes while talking to your doctor.
Talk about sensitive topics. Your doctor or nurse has probably heard it before. Don’t leave something out because
you’re worried about taking too much time, being judged, or embarrassed to bring it up. Your doctor wants to
provide the best possible care.