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Getting the Most Out of Your Doctor’s Visit

Friday, October 19, 2018

By: Heather Knapp

 How many times have you left a doctor’s visit feeling confused, frustrated, or scared? From the health questionnaires, to the evaluation, and the diagnosis, there is a lot of information that can be lost. It’s already stressful enough to be in a doctor’s office, now you have to retain all of this new and confusing information on top of that?  Luckily, there are simple ways to get the most out of your doctor’s visits.  

 Most of us know something is wrong with our health when we go the doctor, and we hope that they will be able to give us an answer, treat us, and have us back up and running in a few days. But sometimes, it gets a little more complicated than that. You may have a list of questions floating around your head in the waiting room, but once you’re in that office, it’s a blank sheet. Now you’ve left the office and you’re sitting in the car thinking, “what just happened?”

 There are many things you can do to make sure you leave a doctor’s visit feeling well informed.

·         Make a list. Making a list is a great way to keep track of your thoughts leading up to an appointment, especially if you are concerned something is wrong.

·         Bring a close friend or relative. Bring someone with you that you trust to help you retain information and write things down. You may even want to share your list of questions with that person so they can help keep the appointment on track.

·         Ask for educational materials and resources. Request educational materials when you want to research more about your condition or treatment. I’m sure all of us are guilty at one point or another of searching symptoms online and 20 minutes later thinking we have a terrible disease with no cure, right? I know I am! That’s why it’s best to get reliable educational materials from a professional, or at least have them give you some resources to look into on your own.

·         Use the “teach back” method. To use this, just repeat the information you’ve been given, but put it into your own words. Perhaps you’ve been given a prescription for an antibiotic for a sinus infection. Your doctor quickly runs through your instructions with specific directions to take it until the pills are gone, to make sure the infection has been fully treated. You can ensure your understanding by stating “so, I need to take this 3 times a day for 5 days, and I have to take it until it’s gone, or the infection might come back?” That way, the doctor to can correct you if you got it wrong, and you can reinforce your understanding.

·         Schedule a follow up. If you feel like you just need more time and answers, don’t be afraid to schedule a follow up appointment. This will give you time to research, come up with more questions, and set some health goals.

 The National Institute on Aging (2017) lists some tips for starting with a new doctor as well. On top of what you have already done to prepare for your visit, there are some more things you may want to do to make the most of your time. These include introducing yourself the way you prefer to be called to the staff, so you can be a little more comfortable in the clinic. Find out how the clinic runs, so you can find the best times to call, and what to do if the clinic is closed. Have a full medical history to give the new doctor a good understanding of you. You may call ahead and ask to fill out your medical history form at home, where you have plenty of time to make sure you don’t miss something important. And lastly, share your previous doctors’ names. This will help your new providers with retrieving previous records. Check out the website here to find more information on preparing for a doctor’s appointment: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/how-prepare-doctors-appointment

 These are just a few tips to use to make sure you get the most out of your doctor visit. You will find that some things work better for you then others, and you may change some things to better fit you! You can never be too informed about your own health, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. You and your doctor should be on the same team, so the most important thing is to be open about your health and have clear communication! 


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Elkhorn Logan Valley
Public Health Department
2104 21st Circle / PO Box 779, Wisner, NE 68791
Phone: 402.529.2233  - or -  877.379.4400
Fax: 402.529.2211
After Hours: 402.841.8110
Email: info@elvphd.org