Are you getting the most out of your appointment with your provider? Want to better prepare for your next office visit? As a healthcare provider, I want to help you as best I can to manage your chronic disease or diagnose a new problem. However, that can be difficult to do when I do not have all of the information that I need.
Gone are the days where doctors are seen as authoritative figures, making all of the decisions for you. Now, healthcare is a collaborative approach, with the patient in the center.
Use these tips to prepare for your next office visit so that both you and your provider are happy!
Do your research
We live in a world where information is readily available at our fingertips via the internet. Nowadays, providers are aware that their patients are tech-savvy and knowledgeable. It is perfectly fine to research your symptoms ahead of time to see what the problem could be. Even if your problem is not what you anticipated, your provider will be able to give you reasons why or why not.
Write down your symptoms
Have you ever gone to your provider’s office knowing what you were going to say and then completely forgot? This happens all the time. Before your visit, keep a symptom diary to note how you are feeling. Try to include the onset (when did it start?), timing (certain time of the day?), severity (how bad?), and things that make it better or worse.
Please be sure to include all of the details. Don’t be embarrassed about any of the symptoms you may be having (example: change in bowel habits) because it may be important to your diagnosis or treatment. Trust me, your provider has heard it all!
Know what medications you are taking
It is truly astounding to me the number of people who do not know the medications they take every day. Not only that, they also don’t know what the medication is used for or its side effects. To me, this is quite alarming. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the names of your medications and why you take it. No, it is not enough that only your wife/husband knows your medications! Keep a list of your medications with you at all times. Your list should include the name of the medication, whether it is brand or generic, the strength (how many milligrams, etc), the dose that you take, the frequency (when do you take it?), and if you just take it as needed. This also needs to include any supplements, herbals, and over the counter drugs. Your provider’s office needs this information for your medical record.
Have your full medical and surgical history
Make sure you have a list of all of your past and current medical problems and the surgeries that you have had (yes, even the tonsillectomy that you had as a child!). It is easy to forget these things when you are an otherwise healthy person. Bring medical records from past providers’ offices with you, especially prior lab or radiology testing.
It is perfectly appropriate to ask questions regarding your provider’s diagnosis and treatment. For example, if an MRI is ordered, it is okay to ask if it is absolutely needed or if other tests can be performed first. Ask for a rationale of any invasive testing ordered. Ask if there are any lifestyle modifications you can implement to help with your condition. Based on your symptoms, ask what diagnosis is suspected and what can be ruled out. Never be afraid to ask questions.
Be sure you are clear on follow-up needed
Before you leave the office, be clear about what testing was ordered and in what time frame you should complete it. Ask if/when you need a follow-up appointment and schedule it that day (otherwise you may forget). Be aware of additional symptoms you should watch for. When you do complete testing, make sure that you hear back from your provider’s office regarding the results. If you don’t hear back, that does not mean good news, they might not have received the results. Rinse and repeat!
Every office visit is an opportunity for you to make sure that your voice is heard. The better prepared you are, the more you will benefit from the appointment.
Do you have any other tips to prepare for your next office visit? Leave them in the comments!
Disclaimer: Information contained in this post should not be substituted for medical advice. If you think you are having a problem, contact your own provider who knows your health history.