February 04, 2015

6 Tips to Make the Most of Your Doctor Appointments

No one wants to walk away from a doctor’s appointment with unanswered questions and nagging health concerns they didn’t address during the visit. To prevent this from happening, here are six tips to help you get the most out of your doctor appointments:

1. Speak up and ask questions. When it comes to your health, remember that you’re your own best advocate. As a patient, you have the right to understand your symptoms and illness. Taking charge of your health means being involved in every facet of your health care. Be sure to be an active participant during visits with your doctor, rather than just an audience. This means:

  • Having a thorough understanding of any illnesses you have, and making sure you understand your treatment plan and any medications you’ve been prescribed
  • Voicing any concerns you may have
  • Making sure you have all the information you need to make educated decisions about your health
  • Making sure you understand any medical procedures or tests being administered

2. Bring all medications to your first visit. The first visit with your doctor will be that much more productive if you come to the appointment armed with all the information your doctor needs. This means bringing your medications (or a list of your medications) to the appointment, and making sure you tell the doctor when and how you take your medications. Having this information will help your doctor evaluate any potential interactions between various medications.

3. Bring copies of relevant investigations or tests. Any missing information or test results that have not been transferred before your visit will only bog down the process. So be sure that your doctor has access to all your medical information, including test results. Making sure your doctor knows you well can only benefit you. It’s also a good idea to build your own medical file, so that you have all the information your doctor needs – just ask for copies of your tests from your doctor and any specialists you have visited.

4. Bring a friend or family member. For some people, bringing a friend or family member to their doctor’s appointment may help ensure they don’t forget anything important during the visit. A friend or family member can remind you of questions or may be better able to speak up and ask the doctor to clarify any uncertainties or address any misunderstandings, particularly if you tend to feel nervous or overwhelmed during appointments.

If you’re bringing another person to your appointment, it’s a good idea to hash out a plan prior to meeting with your doctor. That way you can make sure you both agree on what the other person’s role is during the visit.

5. Leave your shyness at home. This may be easier said than done, but it’s crucial to check any shyness at the door before entering your doctor’s office. Your doctor won’t be able to properly address any medical concerns or health issues unless you’re open and honest and share all pertinent information. Be sure not to minimize or omit any symptoms you’re experiencing. You can rest assured that anything you share is strictly confidential, so make sure your doctor has all the information they need before you leave their office. This will make the process more efficient and expedient, ensuring you get the best medical care possible.

6. Describe your symptoms, not your diagnosis. These days, it’s tempting to self-diagnose when most of us enlist the help of Dr. Google at the first sign of any symptoms. Resist this temptation and allow your physician to make the diagnosis. Your doctor relies on you to accurately describe what you’re experiencing and any concerns you have. And you should rely on your doctor to determine any patterns and make an accurate diagnosis, employing their accumulated years of knowledge, experience and medical training.

Although you may have the best intentions in wanting to help out your doctor, conveying what you think is the diagnosis rather than properly describing your symptoms is ultimately counter-productive and, in the worst case scenario, may even lead to a misdiagnosis.

No one wants to walk away from a doctor’s appointment with unanswered questions and nagging health concerns they didn’t address during the visit. To prevent this from happening, here are six tips to help you get the most out of your doctor appointments:

1. Speak up and ask questions. When it comes to your health, remember that you’re your own best advocate. As a patient, you have the right to understand your symptoms and illness. Taking charge of your health means being involved in every facet of your health care. Be sure to be an active participant during visits with your doctor, rather than just an audience. This means:

  • Having a thorough understanding of any illnesses you have, and making sure you understand your treatment plan and any medications you’ve been prescribed
  • Voicing any concerns you may have
  • Making sure you have all the information you need to make educated decisions about your health
  • Making sure you understand any medical procedures or tests being administered

2. Bring all medications to your first visit. The first visit with your doctor will be that much more productive if you come to the appointment armed with all the information your doctor needs. This means bringing your medications (or a list of your medications) to the appointment, and making sure you tell the doctor when and how you take your medications. Having this information will help your doctor evaluate any potential interactions between various medications.

3. Bring copies of relevant investigations or tests. Any missing information or test results that have not been transferred before your visit will only bog down the process. So be sure that your doctor has access to all your medical information, including test results. Making sure your doctor knows you well can only benefit you. It’s also a good idea to build your own medical file, so that you have all the information your doctor needs – just ask for copies of your tests from your doctor and any specialists you have visited.

4. Bring a friend or family member. For some people, bringing a friend or family member to their doctor’s appointment may help ensure they don’t forget anything important during the visit. A friend or family member can remind you of questions or may be better able to speak up and ask the doctor to clarify any uncertainties or address any misunderstandings, particularly if you tend to feel nervous or overwhelmed during appointments.

If you’re bringing another person to your appointment, it’s a good idea to hash out a plan prior to meeting with your doctor. That way you can make sure you both agree on what the other person’s role is during the visit.

5. Leave your shyness at home. This may be easier said than done, but it’s crucial to check any shyness at the door before entering your doctor’s office. Your doctor won’t be able to properly address any medical concerns or health issues unless you’re open and honest and share all pertinent information. Be sure not to minimize or omit any symptoms you’re experiencing. You can rest assured that anything you share is strictly confidential, so make sure your doctor has all the information they need before you leave their office. This will make the process more efficient and expedient, ensuring you get the best medical care possible.

6. Describe your symptoms, not your diagnosis. These days, it’s tempting to self-diagnose when most of us enlist the help of Dr. Google at the first sign of any symptoms. Resist this temptation and allow your physician to make the diagnosis. Your doctor relies on you to accurately describe what you’re experiencing and any concerns you have. And you should rely on your doctor to determine any patterns and make an accurate diagnosis, employing their accumulated years of knowledge, experience and medical training.

Although you may have the best intentions in wanting to help out your doctor, conveying what you think is the diagnosis rather than properly describing your symptoms is ultimately counter-productive and, in the worst case scenario, may even lead to a misdiagnosis.