Health Care Talk
Preparing for Your Doctor Visit
Good communication is one of the important skills that each person must work on. It is an im-portant key to getting the most out of your doctor visit and treatments and to regaining some con-trol in your life. It is each person’s (patients & doctors alike) “responsibility” to establish good communication between each other. This doesn’t just happen over night, and as in any relation-ship, it takes time to develop this skill.
Here are some tips that you can use to improve this skill.
1. Prepare a list of questions.
It is important to be prepared for your doctor visit. We often have many questions that we want answered. Even though we practice these questions in our mind before the visit, we tend to forget the questions in the presence of our doctors (it seems the questions come back to us as soon as we leave the office).
You should always go to the doctor with a written list or report of your problems, medication results and questions. Doing this allows your appointment time with your doctor to be more pro-ductive. Your time and his time are very valuable and you want to make the most of it. You can help yourself stay organized and ensure you cover all your questions if you have prepared a list before the visit.
Some doctors may not like you coming in with a list. Don’t let this deter you. A list is a “tool” for you to use. Check off each item on the list after mentioning them to your doctor. This will help you know that your concerns were discussed.
2. Keep a journal.
To help you prepare this list, it is important to keep a diary or journal where you can write about how you feel emotionally and physically. For example, you can make note of how you are af-fected by the weather, activities, tension, sleeplessness, etc. Also make note of the results of the last visit’s treatment and medication results. When you get ready to make your list or report for the doctor’s visit, go back through your journal or diary and pick out the “main problems or headlines.” Use as few words as possible and focus on 1, 2 or 3 areas to put on your list. Put just the facts in the list (not a lot of extra words). Doctors usually start thinking about your treatment with the first thing that you say, whereas patients tend to put the least important thing first and the most important facts last.
3. Take a companion to the doctor’s visit.
Another idea is to take someone with you to the doctor’s visit. Sometimes our pain level is high and we have a hard time communicating with the doctor, and we may not remember what the doctor communicates to us. Discuss in advance with your companion the concerns you want to discuss with your doctor. Go over your list with your companion so he/she can help you commu-nicate your concerns.
4. Take notes!
If you have problems writing, use a tape recorder.
5. Set a Goal.
Know what you want to achieve when you come to visit the doctor.
6. Bring Test Information.
New patients should bring old test results, X-rays, MRI, etc. If the test results are not available to bring with you, make a list of where and when any tests were done.