In the past, doctors took the lead during appointments and a patient followed the path laid out. Today, though, quality doctor-patient relationships are more collaborative, and how the two of you communicate plays a key role in obtaining the health care you need. Unfortunately, it can seem like doctor's visits are often rushed. Use these tips to get more out of your doctor's appointment.
NIH Senior Health provides a five-step process, which starts with prioritization. If you wrote down a list of what you wanted to discuss, how would you rank this list from most important to least important? At the top put the items you must discuss and, if you end up with more time than expected, you can get through more items.
Next, be honest. If your doctor asks if you smoke or if you are eating a healthy diet, it can be tempting to tell your doctor what he or she wants to hear—and, obviously, if it’s true, then that’s the right answer to give. But if you haven’t made significant changes, explain where you are in the process. Perhaps, “I cut back on salt and sugar for a while, but I’ve been eating more of both again. What suggestions do you have for me?”
Then, stick to the point. Remember, time is limited and you want to get through the most crucial items on your list. Share what is of greatest concern to you, summarizing when it started, how often it bothers you and if it’s getting worse, better or staying the same. Is there something you do to bring about temporary relief? If so, share that.
If you feel rushed, tell your doctor how you feel in a straightforward yet positive way. Perhaps the doctor, upon hearing about your concern, will talk with you further. Or maybe a follow-up visit is warranted.
Finally, remember that no doctor can answer all questions. Perhaps, though, he or she can guide you toward finding relevant information or refer you to a specialist.
Another article by NIH Senior Health shares additional tips on planning for your doctor visit:
- Besides listing the topics you want to discuss (and prioritizing them), also make a list of symptoms you’re experiencing. This can include physical issues, such as pain or fever, low energy levels, an inability to sleep well, a lump and much more. Also list feelings such as sadness or confusion.
- Be prepared to provide information about all medications you take, over-the-counter as well as prescription, plus vitamins, herbal remedies, laxatives and more. Write down how much you take, how often and when. Especially note changes in what you’re taking or its quantity. These medications may be causing interactions that are contributing to or even causing symptoms.
- Let your doctor know of any assistive devices you’re using, especially if new. These can be canes, reachers, grab bars in the tub or along stairs—or anything else that is helping you to “see, hear, stand, reach, balance, grasp items, go up or down stairs and move around.”
- Are there changes in your driving abilities, how you walk or your ability to enjoy activities? Are you drinking more alcohol? Is there a divorce in the family that has you feeling down? Be honest about these topics or any others affecting your life so your doctor can give you the best health care possible.