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Ten ways to maximize your doctor’s appointment

Brian Michael Icasas Cabral

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It happens all the time. At the end of a clinic visit, your physician asks if you have any questions. You quickly reply, “No,” and your appointment wraps up. When you’re halfway home, a question about a medication pops into your head. Equally as troublesome is asking a question as you’re walking out of the clinic, when your physician has already set your chart away and is focusing on the next patient.

Just as physicians prepare to see patients by reviewing their medical history and test results, it’s equally as important for patients to prepare to see their physicians. This is the best way to get the most out of your care and to make sure all issues are addressed.

Here are some tips on how to make the most out of your doctor’s appointment:

1. Bring an updated list of your prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements. Know what the dosages are, how often you take them and what time of the day they are taken. If you’re unsure about any of them, bring them with you to show your physician. Also tell your doctor about any herbal or alternative therapies you may be taking.

If you use any health-related devices, bring them with you — eyeglasses, hearing aids, a cane or anything else you use to assist you that your physician might need to see.

2. Bring all of your most recent test results and any other results may be relevant to the condition that you are seeing your physician for, as well as previous results for comparison.

3. Bring a list of questions and concerns that have come up since your last visit. Put the most concerning items at the top of the list and discuss them first.Note symptoms, what you were doing before they began, when they started and how long they lasted and if there is anything that made you feel worse or better.

4. If possible, bring a trusted family member, friend or caregiver to your appointment. Talk about your medical concerns with them ahead of time so that they can remind you if you forget. Up to 80 percent of patients have difficulty remembering what was discussed at a doctor’s visit and your companion can also take notes and help you remember what your physician said after you leave the office.

5. Bring your family health history, including family members’ names, their relationships to you and their current ages (or age of death). In addition to their medical conditions you should also include the age when these first started. Provide history for first-degree (parent, sibling or children) and second-degree (grandparents, aunts, uncles, half-siblings, nephews and nieces) relatives.

6. Be honest. Your physician is your number one partner in health care, but they can’t know what you don’t share with them. Share your complete medical history, as well as personal and social history. Don’t be embarrassed — your physician has heard it all. Everything you say is kept confidential and any little bit of information can be helpful in trying to figure out what’s wrong and how best to help you.

7. Take notes. But please do not secretly take pictures, audio or video recordings as this not only undermines the trust between physician and patient, it is also illegal.

8. Keep an open mind. You may have already looked up your symptoms on the internet and have already devised a plan of treatment for yourself. Being armed with knowledge is good, but Dr. Google doesn’t have all the answers and your information may not be coming from the most reliable of sources. Your physician is still the best person who can synthesize all the information about your condition to come up with a diagnosis and treatment plan.

It’s equally as important for patients to prepare to see their physicians.

9. Ask questions. Again, your physicians cannot know what you are thinking or feeling if you don’t tell them. If the treatment plan isn’t clear, ask for clarification. Don’t be afraid to ask if there are other treatment options. If you do not agree with your physician’s recommendations, tell them why. Maybe it is difficult for you to come to your appointments or the medication they recommended is too expensive. Maybe you need a referral to another healthcare professional.

10. After the visit, ask your physician’s secretary how to get in touch if you have any more questions. Then set a date for your next appointment and keep it.

Time is precious, both yours and your physician’s. With a little preparation, you can both get the best results out of your doctor’s visit.

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