How to prepare for a doctor’s appointment

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How to prepare for a doctor’s appointment

How many times have you left a doctor’s appointment frustrated?  You forgot to ask questions or bring important papers with you.  Maybe you had an awkward conversation with the doctor, struggling to bring up delicate topics. Even worse, you got home uncertain on how to follow the doctor’s instructions.

From time to time, we all need to visit a doctor.  The ideal way to start is by being prepared. Preparation in life is important and this includes preparation for a doctor’s appointment.  From the time the doctor enters the exam room until he leaves, every minute counts.  Unfortunately, the average doctor’s appointment lasts about only 15 minutes so once the clock starts ticking, you need to be as efficient as possible to get questions answered and the care you deserve.

Here’s how to maximize each doctor’s visit you have by breaking it down into segments - before the appointment, during the appointment, and before leaving the appointment.

Before the appointment

Making an appointment with a doctor usually falls into 3 categories – a first time get to know you visit, an appointment with your regular primary care physician for an illness/injury/health concern, or a referral with a new physician for an ongoing health condition.  Here are important steps to make the visit go smoothly:

·      Make sure the physician’s office accepts your health insurance.  Call or go online to your insurance website listing a directory of in-network providers. 

·      When making the appointment, verify that the office takes your insurance.

·      Provide information on why you are making the appointment so they can schedule a proper length of time needed.

·      When visiting a doctor for the first time, have information listing diseases or health conditions of yourself and first-degree family members, medications you take including herbal supplements and vitamin/mineral supplements, your immunization records, and past surgeries and test results.  

·      Find someone to come with you to the appointment.  They can be your second pair of ears and eyes listening on your behalf, asking questions and writing down or sharing medical information you may forget.

During the appointment

·      Have ready a list of questions you’d like to ask.  But rank them by priority with your most pressing concerns asked first.  Remember, your time may be limited so it’s best to focus on just three or so concerns rather than five or more.

·      Describe your symptoms – when they started, location, pain involved, triggers of symptoms, how long it lasts and what seems to alleviate them.

·      Be completely honest about everything physically, mentally, and emotionally.  A doctor has heard it all so there is no need to be embarrassed.  Holding back information or shading the truth could jeopardize your health and will not help the doctor make the most accurate diagnosis.

 

Before leaving the appointment

 

·      Before the doctor walks out the door, find out if and when you need a return visit. 

·      Ask about any warning signs for your condition and when to be concerned or to call in.

·      Make sure you thoroughly understand your medical condition, the treatment plan and the long-term outlook. 

·      If any new medications are prescribed, be sure you understand what it is for, how to take it and what side effects it could have.

·      Ask about what is the best way to reach the doctor if you have further questions – by email, phone and what hours are best to do so.