While patients used to passively follow their doctor’s orders, people now often create a partnership with their doctors and their multidisciplinary health care team. In order to play an active role in your health care, you should proactively talk to your doctor during an appointment.
Whether you are seeing your doctor for a specific reason or you are just going for a checkup, clear and honest communication with your physician can help your doctor make informed recommendations for your health and wellbeing. It is always important to be upfront and honest about your symptoms with your doctor, even if it seems embarrassing. Having an open dialogue will allow you to understand your diagnosis, treatment plan, and recovery process.
Preparing for a Doctor’s Appointment
Having a plan and a list of questions will help you optimize the time you have with your doctor. Make a list of your primary concerns as well as any secondary concerns that may come up throughout your discussion.
For example, are you going to see the doctor for a specific symptom? Are you interested in getting an immunization? If you have several issues to discuss, write them down in order of importance so you don’t end your appointment with your largest health concern.
To save time before your appointment, make a list of any prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements that you take on a regular basis, including the dosages. It is possible for medications to interact with each other and cause dangerous side effects. Also, make a list of other doctors or specialists that you see so your doctor is knowledgeable about your current medical situation.
What to Tell Your Doctor
Once you are in your appointment, where should you start? Talking to your physician about your health will require you to share how you feel both physically and mentally. It is important to be able to accurately describe your symptoms and discuss your health concerns so you can create a partnership with your doctor.
Share your symptoms because they are is evidence that something is not quite right with your body. This may be a specific pain, a fever, unexplained fluctuations in your weight, or chronic insomnia. Telling the doctor about your symptoms gives them a good starting off point when assessing your health.
Make sure to take some notes about the details of your symptoms before you go see the doctor. The doctor will ask when the symptoms started, when they occur, their frequency and duration, if they are getting better or worse, as well as other detailed questions. It is best to be prepared to answer these questions with certainty.
It is best to also speak to your doctor about what your everyday life is like. A doctor may want to know where you live, what your diet is like, your sleeping habits, your activity level, and your typical everyday schedule. This information will help your doctor understand your medical conditions and recommend the best course of treatment for you.
Some Important Questions to Ask
Asking the right questions is an important part of having open communication with your physician. Be proactive in your questioning, as you might bring something up that your doctor did not know concerned you. Also, ask for clarity if your doctor uses a term that you do not understand or if your treatment instructions are unclear.
If your doctor orders tests, ask them to explain why it each test is important, what it will show, how its results will alter your course of treatment, and what the test will cost. Talk about preparing for the test so you know what to expect when you get there and you come properly prepared. For example, some tests require you to have an empty stomach and therefore cannot eat anything after midnight the night before. Find out how long it takes to get the test results and the method of notification.
When you get the results of your test, make sure you are clear about what they mean. You can also ask your doctor for a written copy of your results if you feel like it would help you to better understand them.
Getting More Involved
You are ultimately the person who will make any final decisions when it comes to your health. You will get the most benefit out of a treatment plan that you understand and are involved in the decision-making process. Talk about what you should expect from your treatment and what it involves. Voice any questions or concerns, such as side effects, prognosis, and even alternative treatments.
It is also important to talk about the prevention of your current or other disorders in the future. Doctors may want to talk to you about changing your diet, increasing your activity level, or changing other parts of your everyday life to help manage medical conditions. Also, if there is a certain health condition that runs in your family, make sure to talk to your doctor about the things you can do to prevent yourself from developing the disease.
If you have a chronic condition, talk to your doctor about techniques you can use to manage your condition and some possible things you can do to prevent your condition from worsening. This could include diet or lifestyle changes that you had not considered or perhaps going to see a certain specialist that your doctor can refer you to.
Nurses and pharmacists are always a great resource for information, but it is so important to have an open dialogue with your physician directly. If you think of something you want to ask after you have left the appointment, make sure you have your doctor’s contact information on hand so you can follow up. This will give you a better sense of security when it comes to your health and wellbeing and have more confidence when you are speaking to medical professionals.