Six Tips to Help You Have a Better Doctor's Visit
Friday October 2nd, 2020
Chances are, you’ve been going to the doctor your whole life. But are you getting the most out of your visits? Doing a little prep work in advance of your next visit could translate into a better experience for both you and your doctor. You know your body best. Sharing that information with your doctor can give them valuable insight so you can make decisions together as a team. Here are six ways you can prepare for your next doctor’s visit.
Gather your personal and family medical history
Basically, you’ll want to gather as much medical information on you and your family as possible. If you don’t know, just do your best. Here are examples of the types of information you want to collect:
- Current and past conditions
- Types and dates of surgeries
- Blood type
- Health screenings for things like a breast exam, diabetes or high blood pressure along with dates of the screenings if you have them
- Shots for things like the flu, measles or shingles
- Marital status
- Tobacco/alcohol/drug use
- What you typically eat
- How often you exercise and what activities you do
- How much and how well you sleep
- Sexual history
You may also want to include the names and contact information for past providers in case additional records or test results are needed.
You’ll want to gather as much information as you have on your blood relatives including grandparents, parents, siblings and children. You can keep track of everything in a journal or on a personal device. MyMedicare.gov is a free, online, secure service from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid that helps you manage your health information. However you track your health history, make sure you keep this information secure and safe.
Make a list of current medications
You may be on a few medications which may have been prescribed by different doctors. Sometimes the combination of prescriptions can reduce their effectiveness and increase side effects, so it’s important for your primary care provider (PCP) to understand everything you’re taking. They may be able to reduce or switch medications which can help you feel better and save money each month. Make a list of each medicine along with the dosage and times per day you take it so your PCP has an accurate understanding of your current situation. If you use MyMedicare.gov, you can track your medications through Blue Button 2.0.
Make a list of questions for your doctor and prioritize concerns
It’s easy to forget details in the middle of talking, especially when you’re in the exam room. Making a list of everything you want to discuss with your PCP can help you focus and stay on track during the visit. Prioritizing your concerns gives the issues that need the most time and discussion the attention they deserve. Even if you don’t get through all of your concerns in the visit, at least your top concerns will have been addressed. You’ll want to be sure to discuss any health risks with your doctor.
Have an "elevator speech"
You’ll want to have a detailed yet brief explanation of the reason for the visit ready. You can try writing it down or practicing it at home a few times. Try to keep it around a minute long. You’ll want to include specific symptoms, changes since your last visit and any details from your personal life that may be related to the issue. For example, if you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one, you may not be sleeping or eating well and feeling tired. Our health doesn’t happen in a vacuum from the rest of life, so it’s important to share the big picture as well as the details.
Be transparent and honest
It can be difficult, awkward and uncomfortable to discuss your body and its functions at times. But embarrassment, shame and judgment have no place in the exam room from you or your doctor. They’ve seen all sorts of bodies and conditions over the years, which means they likely won’t be phased or surprised by much. Being open and truthful with your PCP will help them better understand what’s going on and how they can help.
Bring help if you need it
You may want to bring along a family member or a friend for additional support. Going to the doctor can be stressful at times. A support person can help remind you of your concerns and help speak for you if needed. It’s important, though, that you be the one making your health decisions with your doctor. If you have private concerns, you can ask your support person to wait in the lobby while you and your doctor have a discussion. If you decide to formally name a caregiver, click here to learn more.
Help could also come in the form of glasses or hearing aids. You’ll want to be able to properly see anything the doctor shows you and hear what they have to say as well. If you need your PCP to speak up or more slowly, be sure to politely ask for that. Let the provider facility know ahead of time if you have vision or hearing concerns so they can adjust as needed.
Lastly, you may want to bring a notepad or journal so you can take notes during the visit. It can be hard to process and remember medical information. Your PCP may give you detailed and specific instructions to follow. Taking notes can help you later on instead of relying on your memory alone.
Better health starts with you
When you’re engaged and proactive, you can make better decisions about your health and wellness. Preparing for your doctor’s visit is just one of the many ways you can take charge of your health. From selecting the right doctor for you to staying active and engaged with friends, family and community, you can make a positive impact on your health in ways large and small. Discover more on our Resources page.
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