Your relationship with your doctor is an extremely important part of high quality healthcare. That relationship is the responsibility of both your doctor and yourself; how you communicate with your doctor can greatly influence his or her response and attitude.
Suggestions for getting the most from your doctor appointments
There are many things related to our visits to the doctor that are beyond our control: the time it takes to get an appointment, the waiting time in the office, which insurance they accept, how much time they allocate to our appointments. We at the Gold Foundation thought it could be helpful to share some suggestions for things you can control to help you get the most out of each visit with your doctor.
1) Prepare and prioritize a list of your symptoms, questions and concerns, bring it with you, and tell the doctor early in your visit that you’d like to discuss the items on your list. If possible, mail, fax or e-mail the list in advance so your doctor can consider how best to use your time together to address your concerns.
2) Bring a list of your medications and dosages.
3) If you have reports or test results from other doctors, bring them with you. If possible, send in advance.
4) Consider bringing a family member or friend with you if you’re comfortable doing so. It helps to have another set of ears when the doctor explains things.
5) Bring reading material or work to do if you anticipate a long wait so you can make the wait time productive.
6) Call ahead to find out if the doctor is running late; if so, perhaps you can agree upon a new arrival time.
7) Ask your doctor to write down instructions and information before you leave the office, and review it together to make sure you both have the same understanding. Ask for relevant handouts.
8) Be sure you are clear about next steps before you leave the office:
Do you need to schedule a follow-up visit?
If the doctor prescribed medication, do you have the prescription? Can the doctor call it in to the pharmacy for you? Do you fully understand how to take it and possible side effects?
How should you report any signs, symptoms or concerns to your doctor?
Does your doctor have an e-mail address you can use?
Are there special call-in hours when the doctor is available to answer your questions?
If you had any tests, when should you expect to receive the results? What should you do if you don't get them?
How can you reliably reach the doctor when the office is closed?
Here are two links to additional guidelines that will provide you with more information in to assist you in your ability to effectively communicate with your provider.
NIHSeniorHealth: provides a very comprehensive set of guidelines entitled “Planning Your Doctor Visit” produced by the National Institutes of Health, overseen by the U.S. Federal Government. While this information is aimed at older adults, it is appropriate for anyone interested in getting the most out of their relationship with their physician.
Consumer Reports:provides comprehensive information on communication with your doctor. It can be accessed on line without subscription to Consumer Reports.