14 tips to make your doctor visits a success

Doctor visits have become complex. Doctors are seeing more patients, making more diagnoses each visit and managing multiple medications. Some people spend less than 10 minutes with their doctor at each appointment.

With drug advertising and the ability to research symptoms on the Web, people are asking more questions and voicing strong opinions about their care. And with good reason. Research shows that people who are involved with their own health care decisions tend to get better results.

Getting the most out of your appointments
How can you be active in your health care and get the most out of your doctor visits? Follow these tips:

Choose a doctor you like. You should feel comfortable asking questions and discussing your health care with your doctor.

Make an appointment early in the day. Doctors can be knocked off schedule by emergencies, hospital rounds or by several very complicated office visits in a row. You’ll be less likely to be affected by schedule changes if you have an early appointment.

Involve the office staff. Many people get frustrated when they have to wait to ask their doctor a simple health question. Ask if a qualified nurse or physician’s assistant is available to answer your question.

Ask questions every time your doctor says something that you don’t understand.If you have questions before an appointment, write them down and bring the list with you so you won’t forget to ask.

Mention all medications you’re taking. This includes medications prescribed by other doctors, over-the-counter pills, vitamins and supplements. Tell the doctor about any medications you are supposed to take, but don’t. Make a list and take it to all doctor visits, or better yet, collect them all in a bag and bring them with you to your appointment.

Let the doctor know all of your symptoms, no matter how insignificant or unrelated you may think they are.

Tell the doctor about what you used to do, but can no longer do. Sometimes people accept a certain level of disability, especially if it’s from a condition that has come on slowly. If you used to garden or knit, but your hands and fingers ache, tell your doctor. If you used to run, but now your knees hurt, speak up. If you used to have a healthy appetite, but now can’t eat much, say so. Otherwise, you may miss out on treatments.

Let your doctor know about your concerns. Make a list of medical worries you may have. Tell your doctor if you smoke, drink alcohol, are depressed, feel stress, or have incontinence problems or sexual difficulties. These may be hard subjects to talk about, but they are important to your health. Your doctor can help.

Mention if a family member has recently been diagnosed with a serious disease or condition. Family history is important information for a doctor. Many people give this information during their first visit, but fail to update it.

Tell your doctor if you plan on traveling outside the country. You may need a vaccine before you go. This info will also help your doctor diagnose any symptoms you have when you get back.

Take information home with you. Take notes while the doctor is speaking, or ask for handouts. This can help you remember what your doctor said during the appointment.

Bring along a family member or friend. If you think you may have a hard time remembering or understanding what the doctor says, have someone go with you to the visit.

Make sure you understand the next steps before you leave the office. When are you due back? Are you supposed to call, or will someone call with your lab results? Don’t leave the doctor’s office until you are clear about what happens next.

Follow up with your doctor. Call the office if: 
You have questions
Your symptoms do not get better, change or get any worse
You have not gotten the results of a test


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