2012-05-03 / Community

Get the most out of your doctor’s appointment

So, you’ve just left your doctor’s office and you can’t remember exactly what he said or you forgot to mention a symptom that may or may not be important. Worst of all, you feel as though you have been rushed through the appointment and he/she didn’t really listen to what you were saying. Sound familiar? It has happened to all of us at one time or another and now I’m going to give you all the tools you need to make your next precious, expensive minutes with your health care provider more productive. They all have their own families, problems, and concerns, just like the rest of us. That said, here are my suggestions to help the process go smoother.

Your relationship with your physician should be a partnership and you should work as a team. By taking an active role in your healthcare you will have better communication and solving your medical problems together will be easier. You are your own primary healthcare provider and should be as involved as possible. This is called self-management and it’s very important.

If you are happy with your current provider, great! If not, you will need to decide what it is you are looking for in a doctor. Then identify several possible options and talk with their staff to learn more about the ones you may be considering. Ask your friends and family about their physicians, and use community resources to find a doctor that treats conditions like yours. If you can, visit one or two before making a choice.

When preparing for an appointment, make a list of your concerns and take it with you. Start the list with the most important items working to the least important. Bring up the most important items because you won’t get to everything on the list. Leave the list because there might be things that you don’t think are important, but could be. Consider taking a friend or family member with you for an extra set of ears. Update you doctor on what has happened since your last visit. Share any symptoms or allergies you may be experiencing. Provide all information on all medications you’re taking and be sure to include supplements, eye drops, ointments and herbal remedies. Find out about any new medications and make sure you know how to take them correctly. Your pharmacist will be happy to help you with that, and oh, by the way, you should be using one and only one pharmacy to avoid dangerous drug interactions. Tell your physician (briefly) about your habits and voice any concerns. Be honest! You are the only person who knows everything about you, so that information should be shared to obtain the best possible medical care. Discuss your diagnosis, medical tests, and what to expect.

When making treatment decisions, ask about risks, duration of treatment, options and cost. Ask about ways you can prevent conditions that may run in your family, or ways to keep your condition from getting worse. Will making certain changes help? Are there support groups or community workshops where you can learn more.

Ask questions if you are unclear, and repeat the answers back to avoid any miscommunication. Write down as much information as you can, or have your friend do this. Don’t hesitate to bring up any concerns, or any non-medical problems you may have (again briefly). Do not be embarrassed to bring up any sensitive issues you may need to discuss, as these may be pertinent. Ask for any printed material that may be useful to you. Be sure to thank your doctor for his or her time and leave your list for them to look over.

Open, honest communication and mutual respect will help you get the most out of your appointment. Be an active member in your healthcare team. Good luck to you!

You can reach Cathy Kaltz, Certified Worksite Wellness Specialist, at (906) 286-0985 for information on individual or worksite wellness programs, wellness seminars and presentations for your group, or information on chronic disease self-management programs that are available in our area.

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