Getting the Most From Your Doctor's Appointment

August 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Education

This information is about getting the most out of an appointment with your health care provider. You’ll learn how to prepare for an appointment, how to get all your questions answered, and how to make sure you understand what you are told.

The key to a successful appointment with your health care provider is openly providing important information about your health to your doctor and explaining your concerns. Then, it is critical that you make sure that you understand what your health care provider explains to you. Ask questions when you don’t.

This may sound easy, but there are many reasons why it isn’t. Some people are afraid to take up too much time asking questions. Others feel that asking questions will make them look ignorant. Sometimes, people forget the questions they want to ask because being in a medical office makes them feel anxious. And sometimes, people just don’t want to hear the truth. Occasionally, the truth may be about a serious condition — but people also don’t want to hear about inconvenient things either, like “You need to lose 20 pounds.” or “You simply have to stop smoking.”

But most often, patients don’t ask questions — and they don’t provide enough information themselves — because they haven’t prepared for their appointments. To prepare for a productive appointment you need to do two things.

First, consider all the information you think might help your health care provider. Think about your symptoms and try to tell if they are related to what you are doing when you get them. Are you exercising? Finishing a meal? Resting? When do they happen and how long do they last? Always tell your health care provider if you are dieting or taking medications — even non-prescription medications, including laxatives. Don’t forget about stress: are you feeling any physical or emotional stress that might affect the way you feel? It’s a good idea to keep track of all these things and if the problem is complex, make notes to bring to your appointment.

When you have your appointment, tell your health care provider all the important things you have noted — and be sure to make any concerns you might have known to the provider. If you have difficulty asking questions or remembering the information, you may want to bring someone with you to your appointment. Of course, you can’t anticipate every question, but you can keep in mind, or note down, some general questions before your appointment. For example, what is the diagnosis and what does it mean? Will it clear up by itself and if so, when? What needs to be done about it? What should I do about it? What should I avoid doing? When should I take any medication prescribed — and for how long? When and how should you check back with the provider if all is not well?

Remember, you and your health care provider are partners in keeping you healthy. He or she wants to give you all the answers you need to help you help yourself. In sharing information about your problem and sharing the responsibility for dealing with it, you and your health care provider can develop a relationship of mutual understanding and respect.

But the two of you can’t share information unless you understand it — and sometimes, the problem is language. Medical persons use technical language so frequently to communicate professionally that, on occasion, technical words enter into their communications with you. So if you don’t understand something, be sure to ask them to explain. Your health care provider needs to know if you don’t understand or aren’t satisfied with his or her cure. Please let the provider know if that is the case.

Please remember these key points:

  • Before an appointment, organize and if necessary write down the important aspects of your problem: what the symptoms are, how severe they are, and when they happen.
  • Think about what is worrying you and what questions are important to you.
  • During the appointment, communicate your facts, concerns and questions.
  • Make sure your questions are answered. And if you don’t understand the answers, ask for an explanation you can understand.

If you do these things, you can become a partner in getting and keeping healthy.

Tags: Smoking, doctors appoinment, truth, consultation, good idea

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