How To Prepare For A Doctor Visit

Being prepared for a doctor visit can make a huge difference in your comfort level as a patient. If you spend a few minutes preparing for your visit, you will be better informed and capable of making better decisions. You will also be better able to partner with your health care provider to get the best health care outcomes possible.

How To Find A Doctor:

If you are new to an area and don’t know any of the doctors there, call your local American Medical Association (AMA) chapter or local hospital for referrals. Better yet, get referrals from people you meet.

Being Prepared:

Take the time in advance of your appointment to write down a list of questions and concerns that you may have. The time you have with your doctor is sometimes limited because of a busy work schedule (both yours and the doctor’s) so being prepared helps you make good use of every second that you have. There are doctors out there who spend lots of time with their patients. Others may not spend as much time as you would like. Each medical practice is different. Each doctor is different. You have to find the one that best meets your needs. You may want to write down what the doctor tells you so bring a pad and pencil. If you can’t spell the words the doctor uses, ask the doctor to spell them. If you don’t understand the words the doctor uses, ask for an explanation in words that you can understand. It’s your body. It’s your health. You need to understand what’s going on.

Symptoms:

Make a list of all the symptoms you have experienced, even if you think they are unrelated or insignificant. The doctor is like a police investigator. S/he needs to collect all the facts in order to to make your case. Any and all information you share is very important.

Health Insurance Info:

Bring your health insurance ID card with you. If you have a co-pay for the doctor’s visit, be sure you have a plan for paying it. Most practices collect payments for services rendered on the day of the visit.

Medications:

Either bring a written list or the containers of all the medications (with the doses) that you are currently taking. This includes any herbs, supplements, vitamins, and other over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.

Health Information:

The easiest and most accurate way to provide your doctor with your Health History is by completing the online PatientAction Health History and bringing a copy of it with you when you go to see your doctor. This information will enable your doctor to have a better understanding of your past and current medical history. Be sure to include the written results of any lab or diagnostic tests you may have recently had.

Communication with Your Doctor:

There are always questions that seem to need asking long after you’ve left the doctor’s office. Ask the doctor how the office deals with those questions. Are there call-in hours and when are they? Can you email? Can you fax? Can you speak with the doctor directly? Can you speak with the nurse?

Good Luck in your pursuit of a doctor who will best meet your needs!

Anecdote:

I took my young adult chronically ill son to a doctor’s visit. The nurse who came in to take my son’s history was coughing and sneezing. I requested that she find someone else to take the history as I was concerned that my son was going to be exposed to her illness. She explained that she had been sick for 3 days and was no longer infectious. I explained that the fact that she was still coughing and sneezing made me feel like she might still be contagious and I wasn’t willing to take a chance that my son might catch what she had. She continued to talk and finally I said ” you’re not hearing me. I need you to stand up and leave the room ” . As she left the room, I followed her out and explained to another nurse why I felt we needed a different and clean examination room. They proceeded to get us a clean room…and a healthy nurse. You have a voice…use it!

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