Whether you are someone who eagerly anticipates or down right dreads a healthcare visit with your practitioner, these five tips will help you get the most out of your next appointment.

  1. Know your “why”.  What is the reason for your healthcare visit?  Be clear when you make the appointment and when you walk into the office.  Some reasons are obvious; a persistent sore throat, knee pain, new onset insomnia. But often, office visits are for “check-ups”.  Who doesn’t like the comfort of hearing “everything is looking good”?  The catch is, modern medicine is still very much symptom driven.  That means that you will have better results if you go prepared and ready to speak up.  If you want a check-up because diabetes or heart disease runs in your family, and you don’t want to carry on that particular family tradition, say so.  If you’re concerned about specific issues like arthritis or digestive issues, let your practitioner know. Your input can direct more specific lab tests and diagnostic procedures, which can catch issues earlier than more general screening. While you may put yourself in the hands of a trusted practitioner for the treatment of a specific disease, your overall health is your responsibility. Remembering that can be very empowering.
  2. Write it down. You may have an excellent memory under normal circumstances, but often times, even routine healthcare situations cause stress. Writing your questions out ahead of time does a couple of things. It ensures you will not forget to ask something important and shows that you have prepared for the visit and that you are an are engaged and willing participant in your care. Bring a list of all medications and dosages, including a copy to leave with your file. This allows more time for actual conversation rather than dictation. If you hear terminology that you are not familiar with, be sure to ask for the correct spelling so that you can do further research on the subject after your appointment.
  3. Spread the info. Even though you made the appointment with your physician, or nurse practitioner, don’t dismiss the support staff you encounter throughout your visit.  Every opportunity you have to share your concerns, is another opportunity for them to be addressed.  Patients frequently hold back on telling the whole story until they are with the doctor. But often, the first summary the doctor hears is from the intake nurse or physicians assistant (PA). This means that the doctor may have already begun to formulate a plan before they even speak with you. You want that plan to be based on as much information as possible.
  4. Write it down.  Yes, we’ve already covered this, but you need to keep writing! Taking a few quick notes will not only help you remember what you’ve heard, but will also help you process the information. The simple act of writing will also help you formulate questions you may not have thought of while simply listening. If you are presented with a number of options, jot them all down. Our minds typically chose quickly and then selectively hear only the information pertinent to that option. By noting all of the options, your recall will improve.  You may want to revisit all of the options days or weeks after your appointment.
  5. Leave with a plan.  You may conclude your healthcare visit with an immediate diagnosis and prescription. Or, you may be asked to schedule more tests.  Either way, don’t leave until you have a clear plan. If you are diagnosed immediately, write down any unfamiliar terminology.  Ask what treatments are available, as well as how to take any prescribed medications. The pharmacist will also provide this information when the prescription is filled. By asking the prescribing physician, you can minimize the chance for errors. If you are asked to undergo further testing, be sure to understand who will schedule the tests. And, how to obtain the results and their interpretation.  Ask for an expected time to obtain results, so that you can follow up if you don’t hear from the office.

If you would like help planning for an upcoming appointment, schedule a complementary strategy session here.

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