Communication is the key to a successful appointment. Have you ever been frustrated when the doctor leaves the room because you forgot to give him or her some important information? Do you think of questions you regret not asking—leaving your doctor’s office dissatisfy?
Your relationship with your doctor should be a partnership. The better you are able to communicate your needs and understand your options, the more productive your appointment will be and the more likely you are to get the necessary treatment. The time you have with your doctor is brief—if you’re lucky you get fifteen to thirty minutes.
Preparation will help you make the most of your appointment—and that anxious moment in the exam room as you wait for the doctor to arrive is not the best time to begin preparing for your visit. I’ve listed some steps I like to take before seeing the doctor.
1) Write down all your symptoms, noting when they started and whether they get worse at certain times of day or in certain situations. The more accurately and completely you can describe your symptoms, the more likely it is that your doctor can identify your health problem and prescribe an effective course of treatment.
2) Research your symptoms. The more you learn about the possible causes of your symptoms—and what your treatment options may be—the better equipped you’ll be to discuss your care with your doctor and understand his or her instructions.
3) Write a brief outline of your medical history, and list all medications you’re currently taking. Always keep a copy of the history and medication list to use at future doctor appointments.
4) Learn all you can about the procedure. If you’re likely to need a medical procedure—whether surgery or a diagnostic test, such as a colonoscopy or mammogram—before your visit learn all you can so you’ll understand your options and be able to discuss them intelligently.
5) Make a list of questions to ask. When the doctor sees you have a list, he or she realizes you’re prepared and will want to make sure they have covered everything on your list before leaving the room.
When you go to your doctor’s appointment equipped with the above information, I’ve found it’s easier to lead the conversation and get the most out of the visit. The best part—the doctor will appreciate you coming prepared.