Have you ever had the experience of leaving the doctor’s surgery wishing you had remembered to ask a certain question? Or have you left it until the very end to tell your doctor about the real reason for your visit? These so-called “doorknob” questions – bringing up an important concern just as you are leaving the surgery – can mean your doctor won’t have time to adequately address your concerns.
With a little advance preparation you can learn how to make the most of your next visit. Here are some useful tips which will help you to prepare.
1. If this is your first visit, gather together any past medical records and family medical history to take along with you. If you’re seeing other doctors and have information they’ve provided, bring this along too.If you have a lot of past history or medications to clarify (which can be difficult to cover in one consultation) let the receptionist know this when you are making your appointment. Ask if an extended consultation can be booked or consider the priorities for your first visit and plan on a further follow up appointment to adequately discuss all issues with the doctor.
2. Write down a list of your symptoms before the visit. It’s a good idea to keep a diary so you can chart your symptoms over time. Include details of the type of symptoms you are experiencing, when these symptoms began, and what makes them better or worse.
3. Bring a list of all medications you are currently taking, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins, herbs, or supplements. If you have a smart phone or tablet, it’s useful to take pictures of your medication and supplement labels to show the doctor.
4. Never be embarrassed to tell your doctor if you don’t understand something he or she has said. Sometimes doctors use medical jargon without realising they are not explaining things in terms that are easy to understand. Repeat what the doctor has told you to be sure you understand and ask for clarification if needed
5. If you find it difficult to speak up for yourself, or you are facing a potentially challenging diagnosis, bring a friend or family member along for support. This person can take notes and help you remember what was discussed later.
6. Always be honest with your doctor. You may not like to admit how much you drink, or smoke, or if you have stopped taking your medication because of expense or side effects, but your doctor needs to know about these and other lifestyle matters to ensure you are receiving optimum care.
7. Before you leave, be sure you understand what needs to happen next. Do you need any further diagnostic tests? When will you get the results? If you have been given a prescription for a new medication, do you understand how and when the medication should be taken? Are there any side-effects, for example drowsiness, you should watch for? What happens if you miss a dose? If you have questions or concerns later how should you contact your doctor?
Your relationship with your doctor is one of the most important you have. With a little advance preparation you use your own time and your doctor’s time more efficiently and effectively.