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Doctor’s office visits can be stressful and confusing. Health matters are important. You only have 15-20 minutes with your doctor, make sure you’re getting the most out of your appointment.
1. Determine the purpose of your visit. Are you meeting with a new doctor to establish primary care? Are you having new symptoms to an existing problem or is it a new problem? Do you have concerns or questions about your medication or treatment plan?
2. Make a list. Make a list of all of your current medications, both prescription and over the counter medicines. Include all vitamins and supplements as well. It’s important for your doctor to know all of your medications, so they can be aware of all drug interactions and side effects. Make a list of your questions, concerns, and new or worsening symptoms. Try to be as specific as possible. Making this list will ensure that all of your issues are addressed when you see your doctor.
3. Consider taking someone with you. Bringing a friend, family member, or caregiver may relieve some of the anxiety of a doctor’s visit. They can take notes on the appointment so you don’t forget any of the information later. They can also speak up for you if you’re concerned or have questions about a medication or procedure.
4. Bring your own medical information. If you’ve researched your health issues, take your research into your doctor to help your discussion. If you’ve had any recent bloodwork, X-Rays, or other scans, make sure your doctor has seen those.
5. Know what to expect. If you’re having blood drawn or know the doctor will want urine or stool samples, make sure to drink plenty of water 24 hours in advance. Avoid foods that are high in fat for easier blood draws. Knowing what to expect and preparing for testing will improve your whole doctor’s visit.
6. Be honest. Sometimes the questions doctors ask can be uncomfortable or feel intrusive, but it’s important to be honest. It’s the doctor’s job to evaluate all possible contributing factors to your health, including alcohol and tobacco use, drug use, and sexual activity. Tell your doctor about your mental and emotional health as well. Stress, depression, and anxiety can have effects on your physical health, or may be symptoms of another problem. It’s better to give your doctor too much information rather than not enough.
7. Don’t leave until you feel confident in your treatment plan. You don’t have a medical degree, so it’s ok if you don’t understand everything your doctor says. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to say “I don’t understand.” Be sure to ask questions about any new medication or treatments. You know your body and are your own best advocate. Find out if you need to return for follow-up visits and clarify your next steps. Ask how to reach your doctor if you have new or worsening symptoms. Some doctors prefer email, some respond faster to a phone call.
8. Write down what you remember when you get home. Once you get home from your appointment, reflect on everything your doctor said to you. Write down what you remember in a personal medical journal and date your entry. Having notes from what you recalled the day of the appointment can be invaluable years later for your personal health.
9. Follow your medication plan. Put a plan in place to make sure you get all of your medication when you need it. Get a journal and keep track of any changes in mood, weight, or symptoms when starting or stopping medication. Medicines work best when taken as prescribed, make sure you take all of your medication.
Always consult a physician for any health concerns you may have. Never start or stop a medication without first consulting your doctor.
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