7 Ways to Make the Most of Your Doctor Visit

Some of life’s most important moments take place in a doctor’s office. That’s because your checkups and other appointments with your provider are a time to focus on your most precious possession: your good health.
Yet doctors must see a lot of patients, and appointments can pass by more quickly than the both of you may like. So why not make the most of your valuable time together? Here are some tips that can help make your next visit a productive one:

Do some prep work. Before your appointment, write down your questions or concerns. That way you won’t forget what you wanted to ask or talk about. For instance, if you want to discuss a new symptom you’re having, think about some details in advance, such as what makes the symptom better or worse. Write your questions or concerns in a notebook, or store them in your smartphone. Just don’t forget to bring your notebook or phone to your appointment!

Be candid. Your doctor needs honest information to take the best care of you. So it’s important to open up, even if it embarrasses you. Your doctor won’t be upset or shocked at your habits. Being open and honest is important when it comes to anything that might affect your health and well-being, such as:

  • Your smoking or drinking habits.
  • Your sex life.
  • Your emotional well-being, including feelings of depression or anxiety over stressful changes in your life like divorce or job loss.

Ask about screenings and adult vaccines. Depending on your age and other factors, it could be time to update your shots or get a potentially lifesaving cancer screening test. So if your doctor doesn’t mention such things, ask what screening tests or immunizations you may need.

Speak up if something isn’t clear. If you don’t understand any part of your doctor’s instructions or advice, don’t just nod your head. Ask your doctor to explain these things until they’re crystal clear. You can repeat your doctor’s instructions out loud to see if you got them right. OK, so I need to take this medicine with meals, correct?

Make a medicine list and share it. Your doctor needs to know everything you’re taking—even any vitamins, herbs or over-the-counter medicines. This is important because some medicines can interfere with treatments or trigger a dangerous reaction. Make a list of all our meds and supplements, or bag them up and take them to your appointment.

Bring some help. Is it hard to remember your doctor’s instructions? Consider bringing a loved one or a close friend to your appointment for a second set of ears. They can take notes and help you recall things your doctor said. Another option: Ask your doctor if it’s OK to record the visit.

Get some expert advice. A doctor appointment is a chance to get advice that could literally change your life. Do yourself a favor and take advantage of that opportunity. For instance, are you thinking of losing weight, changing your diet or quitting smoking? Ask your doctor the best ways to accomplish your goals.

Sources: National Institute on Aging; National Library of Medicine and © Coffey Communications, Inc.