5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Doctor Visit

Primary care visits can be challenging. You’ve spent time waiting for the appointment—perhaps weeks—and then the minutes seem to fly by. How can you respect the physician’s time but also feel that you are fully and confidently participating in the care you receive?

  1. Prepare.
    Ahead of time, think through what you would like to discuss. If you have an ongoing complaint, try to discover if anyone else in your family suffers from the same condition. A thorough family history helps your provider better understand you as an individual. It’s all right to take notes into the appointment with your questions.
  2. Speak up.
    Medical providers are trained to evaluate symptoms and decide what is causing them. If you have personal or family history that worries you, say something. Even if what’s on your mind is not a worry, amid the many questions and boxes that get checked during an appointment, at any point you can say, “There’s something I want to be sure I have a chance to say.”
  3. Be honest.
    Don’t hide embarrassing symptoms. Even when discussing medications, don’t diminish side effects that might be making your life uncomfortable—a doctor cannot treat what he or she is not aware of.
  4. Listen reflectively.
    Ask for clarification when you need to. For example, “So my choices are X or Y and you think X is best because … ” or “If I decide I’d rather wait to do the test, my risk is … ” Understanding your treatment plan, even just a medication choice, helps you fully participate in your own healing.
  5. Double-check.
    Most doctors will ask, “Do you have any questions?” at the close of the visit. Check any notes you made ahead of the appointment to double-check you asked all your questions. Make sure you leave with instructions for what follow-up forms or tests you will be responsible for and when to schedule your next appointment to be sure you’re following through on your end of the doctor-patient partnership.

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