Making the Most of Your Doctor’s Appointment
For most of us, going in for a regular medical check up can be a bit stressful. If you are struggling with a chronic health condition or a more severe health problem, it is to your advantage to take a few minutes to prepare for your health visit. The information that you gather to share with your health provider helps you to provide your health care team with complete information, in order that they may be able to diagnose your health accurately.
Before you go, complete these items so you are ready for your appointment.
- Make a list of your concerns and prioritize them. This will maximize the few minutes that you have with your doctor more efficiently.
- Plan to update the doctor on any health changes since your last visit.
- Take all your medical information with you, including prescriptions and over the counter medicines. Keep track of the dosage and times when they are taken.
- Make sure you can see and hear your health care provider.
- Consider bringing a family member or a friend to take notes and listen.
- Plan for an interpreter if you need one.
If you struggle to remember what the doctor has said to you, be sure to take notes. Make sure that you fully understand what the medical diagnosis is and ask questions. You can ask the doctor to explain it in a more simplified way. Request written or recorded materials and instructions. Talk to other members of the health care team if you have questions. If you are unclear on your doctor’s instructions once you get home, call, or email the doctor office to gain more information and have your questions answered.
Make good use of your time during a doctor’s visit by being honest with them. Decide what one or two questions are the most important to ask. Stick to the point and not wander off topic. Let your doctor know upfront that you have a couple of questions that you need answered. This insures that they know they need to allow a couple of minutes to respond to your concerns. Share your point of view of the visit and remember the doctor may not be able to answer all your questions.
Any changes in your health are important to discuss whit your healthcare team. These items should be included if it has impacted your overall wellbeing. A notebook or journal showing several days, or weeks of your home care can give your physician an accurate view of your health. These are items that are frequently included in a health journal.
Your diet, medication, and lifestyle – alcohol use, appetite changes, diet/nutrition, medicines, tobacco use, weight changes.
Your health - bone/joint pain or stiffness, bowel problems, chest pain dizziness or lightheadedness, headaches, hearing changes, hospitalizations or recent emergencies, shortness of breath, skin changes, urinary problems or feeling wet, vision changes
Your thoughts and feelings - Intimacy issues or changes in sexual activity, memory problems or trouble thinking, sadness or feeling down
Everyday Living – Accidents, injuries, or falls, advance directives, daily activities, driving/transportation/mobility, exercise, living situation, sleep problems or changes in sleep patterns
Health care is expensive, so you want to make sure you are getting the most out of your healthcare dollars. Making sure your healtcare team has the best information regarding your health eliminates unnecessary expenses. Taking a few minutes to prepare for your appointment is not only money savvy, but is also being health smart!
Source: National Institute on Aging – www.nia.nih.gov/health