One of the most important things patients can do to ensure a successful visit to their doctor is to prepare ahead of time for the visit. Taking an active role in your health care is important because you, as the patient, are the ultimate decision maker. Here are some tips for visits to your physician:
- Keep a list of all physicians you see as well as a list of all medications you take. Keep this information with you – and share it with each doctor that you see. It is important each physician know all of the care you are receiving so care is coordinated.
- Besides a list of prescribed medications, make sure you inform your doctor of all vitamins, supplements, herbal supplements, etc you may also be taking. These can interact or effect prescription medications, so it is important that your physician know about these.
- Be honest and direct with your doctor. If you have not been taking your medication as prescribed, you need to let your doctor know. Or if you have not been following prescribed instructions, let your doctor know. It’s difficult to treat someone if you don’t know the ‘whole story.” Your physician is there to help you; he/she will not judge you.
- Before each visit, write down the top three questions you want answered that day. The day of the visit can often seem tiring or hectic to a patient, so you may forget to ask important questions if there is no reminder. Also write down your symptoms, how long you have had them and any other facts or feelings that led to the visit. Your information is a critical piece to your physician in making a diagnosis. Having a problem list you want to talk about with your doctoris important, but realistically, on any one visit, only 2 or 3 major issues most important to you can be addressed. Bring the same problem list for follow up visits. Also remember to be considerate to those waiting in line behind you in the office. While your physician values you as an individual, taking time for a fifteen minute joke or story may not seem long to you but will seem long to the ill person in the waiting room waiting to see your physician.
- Bring copies of recent test results if the tests were done by a different doctor. This is important information for your physician to know, and can save you money by preventing duplication of tests.
- Make sure you understand your diagnosis, what is being recommended, instructions for self-care, how to take your medications as well as what side effects are and when your next visit is scheduled. Also – remember to be honest. If you know you are not going to follow what your doctor is recommending, you need to honestly and directly address that with your physician.
- Always ask questions if you don’t understand! Your physician and his/her staff are there to help you, so don’t hesitate to ask if you don’t understand important instructions or choices. Ask for take-home educational materials the physician has in the office. Get written instructions for special self-care instructions the physician is prescribing.
- Ask if you have options when surgery or procedures are recommended. You have a right to know what your choices and options are for care. Your physician is always willing to explain your choices.
Always remember your doctor is there to help you – so be a good partner in that journey and work closely with him/her on your plan of care and health.