Getting the Most Out of Your Doctor Appointment

Taking an active role in your health care can help you get the best care possible from your doctor. One way to do this is to make sure you get the most out of your office visit. Here are some steps you can take to help you and your doctor improve your health care together.

Path to improved health

Be prepared

Do your homework before you go to your appointment. Write things down ahead of time. You won’t have to worry about remembering everything you need to tell your doctor.

  • Write down your health history. You can create a “health journal” for yourself on paper or in a notebook. Or you can create one on your computer and print it out. Bring the journal or health history to your appointments.
  • Make a list of all the medicines you take. Include information about when and how often you take the medicine. Write down the strength of the medicine (for example, do you take 150 mg or 200 mg?). The list should also include any vitamins or supplements you take.
  • Write down questions you have for your doctor. Take them with you to the appointment. Write down the most important questions first to make sure they get answered.
  • Take any X-rays, tests results, or medical records you have. Your doctor can look at these to get more information on your health.

Talk to your doctor

Be sure to tell your doctor about any current and past health care issues or concerns. It’s important to share any information you can, even if you’re embarrassed. Give your doctor the following information during the exam:

  • Any symptoms you are having.
  • Personal information, including whether you are stressed or if your life is changing.
  • All of the medicines you are taking, including supplements.
  • Any side effects you have from your medicine(s). Be sure to tell your doctor if your medicine makes you feel sick or if you think you may be allergic to it.

Ask questions

Don’t be afraid to speak up during your appointment. It’s important for you to let your doctor know if you don’t understand something. If you don’t ask questions, he or she will think you understand everything they have told you. Here are some tips on asking your doctor questions:

  • Ask every time you don’t understand something.
  • If you can’t understand what your doctor is explaining, ask him or her to draw a picture of it. Or ask your doctor to explain it in better detail, possibly using pictures or brochures.
  • Tell your doctor when you need more time to talk about something. If the doctor isn’t available to help, you should be able to talk to an assistant or a nurse. If no one else is available, see if you can schedule another appointment to continue your talk.

Take information home with you

Taking written or recorded information home with you can be helpful. It can help you remember information and instructions any time you need to. Your doctor is a good source of accurate information you can trust. The following are types of information you can take home with you:

  • Notes that you have taken during the appointment. It’s ok for you to write down the information your doctor gives you. Sometimes it helps to bring a friend or family member with you. They can help write down the answers to your questions.
  • Written instructions from your doctor.
  • A tape recording. Ask your doctor if it’s okay to bring a tape recorder to the appointment.
  • Brochures or other educational materials. If there aren’t any available, ask where you can find some.

Things to consider

Make sure to follow any instructions your doctor gave you during the visit. This could include taking medicine, preparing for a test, or scheduling an appointment with a specialist. If you’re confused or if you’ve forgotten some information, it’s okay to contact your doctor. The following are some common reasons you may need to call your doctor after your appointment:

  • If you have any questions after the appointment. Ask to leave a message with the doctor or speak with a nurse.
  • If you start to feel worse or have problems with your medicine.
  • If you had tests and haven’t got the results.

Questions to ask your doctor

Here are some good starter questions you can ask you doctor to get a conversation going about your health.

  • What do my symptoms mean?
  • Should I be tested for a disease or condition?
  • What caused this condition?
  • How serious is the condition?
  • How is it treated?
  • Are there any side effects to the treatment?
  • How long will treatment take?
  • What is my short-term and long-term prognosis?