Have you ever left your doctor’s appointment and realized you forgot to mention a symptom or ask a question, or failed to fully understand the instructions you were given?
Every minute of a doctor appointment counts, to get the attention and care you need and deserve while the clock is ticking, that brief encounter needs to be as efficient as possible. If you’re lucky, you will get about 15 minutes of face time with a doctor, so it’s often difficult to remember everything you wanted to bring up or that was discussed.
Just getting your sick child or a loved one to the doctor can be a huge undertaking for a caregiver, whose role is to facilitate the conversation between doctor and patient. Older or anxious patients may forget as much as 80 percent of what the doctor told them once they leave the office, according to a research review in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.
“Older patients who are accompanied by a caregiver remember more from their appointments, and they experience an improved satisfaction with their medical care,” says Jeremy Barron, MD, director of ambulatory care services at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.
So, you have to determine What You Want Out of the Appointment. Decide whether it is a well visit, a preventive checkup, or a follow-up visit. Be prepared. Towards your visit, you should plan yourself ahead so as to know the reason for your visit as to be able to rule out any uncertainty or confusion. Being prepared for your doctor’s appointment will help to ensure a more productive office visit and increase the potential for a more effective outcome.
In case you are looking for a diagnosis: a name for what you have, or you need a new treatment plan or a modification of what you are already doing, or you want to discuss your prognosis about what will happen to you, how to manage your treatment plan or you are looking for reassurance or help with sick feelings, fatigue, or depression. You should be able to tell your doctor then he/she will be able to confirm for you, shed more light and give you the necessary health advice/ sick hack you may need.
Whenever you call to make your appointment, explain clearly why you need to see the doctor. Let the receptionist know how much time you will need to schedule for the visit. If you have any special needs, such as wheelchair access or interpretive needs, let the office know in advance. Arriving at your doctor’s office 15–20 minutes early for your appointment will give you enough time to check in and have your vitals taken before your appointment time such as your height, weight, blood pressure, fasting blood glucose levels etc. This will help you get as much time with your doctor as possible to discuss your treatment plan.
You should prepare a detailed medical history of your own health, and that of your immediate blood relatives, also, a list of your current medications including all your prescriptions, over-the-counter, natural, and herbal medicines you take, including their dose, dosage regimen and frequency.
If the doctor has ordered tests to be completed prior to your appointment, you should call ahead to ensure that the office has received the results before going for your visit, most imaging test results can be sent digitally right to your doctor but If you might have to bring the actual X-rays, MRIs, or other films to your appointment, make sure you find out where they are and make plans to pick them up in advance before your visit.
You should keep a symptom diary so you can tell your doctor what symptoms you are seeing, when the symptoms started, how you feel, what they feel like or look like, it could be achy, burning, stabbing, dull, stiff, tingly, sore, annoying, crushing, red, swollen, oozing sensation you are feeling.
If you have pain, how severe it is on scale of 1 to 10? What seems to trigger your symptoms? How often they occur? How long do they last? What seems to alleviate them?
By gathering this information prior to your visit, this will enable your doctor to get all the necessary details about your health and this will assist in the proper diagnosis, deciding an effectual treatment plan and ensure your specific and customized therapy.
As important as it is to know about your condition before visiting your doctor, you should realize that your clinic doctor knows about your condition than Dr. Google, which makes her the perfect person to give answers to those questions such as; what diagnostic tests do I need? What exactly is my disease or condition? What are my treatment options? Do I need a new treatment plan or a modification of an existing plan? What can be done about my feelings of fatigue or depression? Don’t forget to describe your emotional state and any personal circumstances which may influence your physical health. Ask your doctor to explain any test results to you, and you can make a request a copy of the results for your own files.
Ask questions concerning the cost of your medications, if finance is an issue. Some offices may have samples, or change to a cheaper and affordable alternative for you. If your doctor is prescribing a new treatment plan, let him know that cost is an issue, so he’ll be able to choose the best affordable plan for you.
You should have a notepad or your phone or mobile device to jot down the answers to your questions and other notes provided by your doctor.
Alternatively, you can bring a caregiver or an advocate to help you take notes so you can focus on what the doctor is saying or so as to get a better interpretation for a clearer understanding. Or ask permission to tape record the doctor’s responses, especially if you’re seeing a specialist or getting a second opinion.
Write down your main concerns so you are ready to verbalize them clearly at the beginning of your visit. You should write down any questions or concerns you want to talk about before your appointment because they are too easy to forget if you try to rely on memory alone and also, writing them down also helps you prioritize your questions so you will know what to ask first. Taking down instructions, advice and key points, is very important as it is so easy to forget everything that had been discussed easily.
Conversation is key — your doctors cannot read your mind, you have to speak up and state exactly all what you feel. In cases where you don’t want the treatment your doctor recommends, it will be a reasonable thing to ask if there are other treatment options available. For effective conversation, never be embarrassed to tell your doctor if you don’t understand something he has said, sometimes doctors use some medical jargon without realizing they are not explaining things in terms you understand. You should let him know you need him to clarify some things or explain in plain terms. Do research on how you feel so you have a better understanding of medical terms the doctor might use. For example, if you are having hip pain, do some online research about the hip joint and hip pain.
If you find it difficult to speak up for yourself, or you are facing a potentially challenging diagnosis, you can choose to bring a friend or family member along for support. This person can also take notes and help you remember what was discussed later.
After your visit, review and file your notes along with any test results or other documentation and billing you received. Schedule any follow up tests or appointments right away.
Set the agenda at the start of your visit — Doctors have a limited amount of time for office visits, so in order to utilize their time wisely they usually set the agenda and control the visit as much as possible. It is best to set your agenda according to priority so that the doctor can attend to them without mixing things up. To avoid this happening, prepare in advance the top two or three concerns you want to raise with your doctor.
According to an article published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, only 28% of doctors know their patient’s full spectrum of concerns before they begin to focus on one particular concern, and once the conversation is focused, the likelihood of returning to other concerns is only 8%. Your relationship with your doctor is one of the most important you have. Advance preparation will help you use your own time and your doctor’s time more efficiently and effectively. When you take an active role in your healthcare, you become more satisfied and hence do better in how well your treatments work. Preparing for your doctor’s visit is an important step toward becoming a partner in your own health care and a better advocate for your health and well-being.
Take all your medication bottles along with you to the doctor’s office, this will enable the doctor to know what treatment plan you have undergone or you are presently undergoing, so as to avoid clashing therapy. If you cannot take them along, you can also write the names, dose etc. So you might as well just toss in grocery bag and bring them.
If you have diabetes, go with your glucose log result, you have to get a glucometer that you’ll be using daily to take your blood glucose level results.
If hypertensive, bring your blood pressure log — you take the results using ablood pressure monitoring machine.
If you are pregnant, your urine sample usually is required, so be prepared — make sure you drink enough water before your visit and ask if they will need your urine sample before you go to the toilet.
Sometimes vital signs might need to be taken, it is important to have had a few minutes of rest, otherwise your blood pressure will be elevated and other vital signs might give false results.
For kids, depending on how old they are, they will need a dry diaper for weighing, so make sure you carry yourdiaper bag to the office.
Keep your appointment even when you feel well, — in sickness and in health, your Primary care physician wants to see you. If your doctor had ordered tests prior to your appointment, please have them done.
Make sure you review and file your notes along with any test results or other documentation and billing you received after your visits. Schedule any follow up tests or appointments right away.
You can also make a contact list where you can include name and phone numbers for emergency contacts, list all doctors who treat you and why, their phone and fax numbers and office address. Include your preferred pharmacy name, phone, and fax.
Get Insurance and Referral Authorizations in advance and be sure that where you make your appointment accepts your insurance. This will help to reduce the cost incurred in your treatment. You can call or go online to your insurance website to see a directory of in-network providers.
It’s natural to be nervous or anxious when visiting a doctor, but remember that your doctors are always there to help, be comfortable and try to relax as much as possible. Due to the tension created some patients even suffer from white-coat hypertension, which means their blood pressure rises higher than normal when they are in the doctor’s office giving false results. Speak about your fears as they relate to the future appointment with a close friend or family member or you can place a call through to the doctor. Also, you have the ability to calm yourself down in the waiting room before seeing your doctor. You can take a few deep breaths, relax, get used to the environment and remember that your doctor is on your get-well and stay-well team. Stay healthy and remember that you will get through this!
Honesty is critical to a successful visit. Holding back embarrassing information or shading the truth could jeopardize your health.
Remember, doctors have heard and seen it all from weird smells to unpleasant rashes to unexplained pain. Try to be honest — many medical conditions are uncomfortable to discuss. But you should not be embarrassed to talk about anything with your doctor. Actually, leaving out details or lying to your doctor can be bad for your health because it affects your care, so tell your doctor everything. Honesty is definitely the best policy — especially for your health. Your doctor isn’t there in order to judge you, rather, he’s there to ensure your well being. For example, if you have not been taking your medicines or you skip your dose a lot, if you have not been taking your vitamins, been skipping your weekly workouts or sneaking a cigarette here or there, your doctor needs you to be truthful about everything that affects your health. If you have 7 sex partners, don’t tell your obstetrician that you are monogamous. If you smoke 3 packs a day, do not lie that you smoke a pack a day. Or if you binge drink every Friday — say so, if you have a drinking problem — don’t check the social drinker box, or if your parents died of alcoholism, your doctor needs to know — he will not crucify you, he might only need to change your medication to an alternative that will improve compliance or advice you on ways by which you can manage your treatment effectively. Hence, you get a better healthcare.
In the waiting room, try to be mindful of other patients — Different persons come with different ailments, some are there because they feel really sick and not for a general checkup. So, go easy on things like your perfumes, because what you consider a lovely smell may be nauseating to a sick person.
Be nice to the office staff, including the receptionist, — they are trying their best to care for you. If you do not like something in the office environment, ask for the office manager or tell the doctor, they would appreciate your feedback, rather than you causing a scene. Most offices now have electronic portals — Use those to check your test results and communicate with the office.
Communicate and collaborate respectfully with your doctor, always present your questions in a clear and succinct manner. If your doctor interrupts you, or if you feel you are being rushed and you did not get time to ask your questions, calmly and politely let your doctor know that you have specific questions that you would like answered before the office visit ends.
Listen carefully to what your doctor is saying. If you don’t understand something, politely ask your doctor to explain it in simpler terms and if it will help you to remember, take some notes.
Be patient with other patients, some are slow and disabled, and some others are parents with kids, and it may take them extra minutes to get off the scale when taking their weights.
Sometimes doctor's appointments can be so frustrating with long waits, awkward silences, and questions left unanswered, that you might have to bring something to read, instead of ranting and complaining. So, get busy.
Remember that the doctor/patient relationship is very important so it is important that you trust your doctor. Trust, partnership and communication are vital for a vibrant doctor/patient relationship as this help to improve total quality healthcare and good patient outcomes.
Did This Help You? If so, I would greatly appreciate it if you commented below and shared on Facebook/Pinned on Pinterest
If you enjoyed this post , Retweet and comment please.