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How to get the most out of your doctor visit

Your doctor has limited time to spend with you on your visit and many times it can lead to frustration because you feel unsatisfied as lots of your questions go unanswered or you feel that you did not get enough time or forgot to ask some of your concerns. Many times as soon as you reach home, you have already forgotten the instructions on how to take the medications or other directions that the doctor may have given you. And guess what? Your next visit may not be for another 3-6 months.

Here are some of the tips on how to prepare for a doctor visit:

Write down all your symptoms

Make sure to have a notepad handy with all of your symptoms. Ask yourself questions like:  When did my symptoms start? What started them? Am I taking any new medications or any new over the counter herbal medications? Where have I traveled recently? You may also want to keep track of any new events in your life that you think may be important for your doctor to know. Doing this will not only allow your doctor to assess your symptoms in a more manageable way, but it will also save time during your visit.

Bring all your medications

Bring all your medications including over the counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. You will be surprised to know how many of these supplements affect your regular medications. Your doctor can also help you determine if you are taking the right amount of medication or the right kind.

Keep your Doctor Updated

Keep track of all the other doctors you have seen since your last visit and make sure to include the reason you saw these other doctors. Do not forget to bring any lab results and any other paperwork such as the results of other procedures and imaging, if possible. You should also take note of any ER or hospital visits, as well as any past surgeries. This will help your doctor be more aware on any other outliers that might affect your health and or treatment.

Hospital Admission

Write down the name and specialty and contact information of all the physicians who saw you in the hospital and the reason you were seen by them. You should also have a detailed list of all procedures and tests you had in the hospital. Have the nurse on duty print out the results for you. This information can assist your doctor in having an updated medical file under your name.

Bring your Medical Health File

When you go to see the doctor for the first time or a specialist, they may not have your medical history, labs and other information needed to treat you. Keep all your medical history, surgical history, hospital admissions, medication list, labs results, imaging results, other test results such as stress tests, echo-cardiograms colonoscopies, and endoscopies.  Arrange all your test results by month. Doctors like to look at the trends rather than single test result.

Always ask the doctor to give you a copy of your results. They cannot refuse.

Always keep originals at home and take copies to the doctor’s visit.

Do not be afraid to ask

Ask your doctor if you are not clear about your medical problem or the treatment. Most doctors are willing to answer any questions you may have because they know that better understanding makes the patient more compliant. Don’t forget you are paying them for this service and their job is to explain to you clearly in simple terms about your medical problem.

Walk out with a care plan

Be sure to take note of the instructions given to you by your doctor.  This might include information regarding medication, any changes in your medication, lab tests or other tests ordered, and your next appointment date.

Courtesy of our member Jasmine Sra M.D.

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