Make the Most out of Your Doctor Appointment

See if this sounds familiar? After waiting an hour to see your doctor, you have 5 rushed minutes with him or her, and then you end up walking out not knowing anything more than when you went in. You are not alone! Only 1 in 10 Americans can really make sense of and use health information, like the medical tests or procedures recommended by a doctor according to a study conducted by the National Center of Education Statistics.

In honor of Healthcare Literacy Month, this edition of You Matter is dedicated to empowering you to make the most out of your next doctor’s visit so that you can make better decisions, receive better care, avoid medical mistakes, and feel better about your health care.

Preparation is key

Here are 3 steps to take before your trip to the doctor:

  1. Compile a list of every drug and herbal substance you take. You may want to throw all your pill bottles into a bag to take with you – they have the dosages written on them, so it’s easy to figure out what you take each day.
  2. Take note of your symptoms or side effects, their frequency and what triggers them. If you are experiencing side effects, record what you think may be causing them.
  3. Make a list of questions you have for your doctor. Questions not only help your doctor and healthcare team learn more about you but asking questions helps put you in a position to make smart choices about your health care.

What should I ask? 

The questions you may want to ask will depend on whether your doctor:

  • Gives you a diagnosis
  • Wants to conduct a medical exam/test/screening
  • Recommends surgery
  • Writes you a prescription for medicine
  • Diagnosis questions:
    • My understanding of the diagnosis is …, is that correct? If not, can you clarify?
    • What are my treatment options?
    • What are the benefits of each option?
    • What are risks and side effects?
    • How much does this treatment cost?
    • What happens if I choose not to have treatment?
  • Medical exam/test/screening questions: 
    • What is the test for?
    • Is this the only way to find out that information?
    • What happens during the test?
    • How accurate are the results?
    • Are there risks associated with this test?
    • What will the results tell me?
    • What are the next steps after the test?
    • What are the associated costs?
  • Surgery questions: 
    • Why do I need surgery?
    • Are there other ways to treat my condition?
    • How often do you perform this surgery?
    • How might I feel after the surgery?
    • What will I be able to do or not do after the surgery?
    • What are the associated costs?
  • Prescription questions: 
    • What will the medicine you are prescribing do?
    • How will this medicine interact with the other medications I am currently taking?
    • How do I take it?
    • What side effects am I most likely to have?
    • What do I do if the medicine causes problems or doesn't seem to work?

Write it down.

Having your questions ready and being prepared to record your doctor's answers is the best way to make sure you don’t forget the questions you want to ask and how your doctor responded. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality makes this easy. Click here to generate a printable list of questions with space for notes based on your healthcare needs.

Taking proper care of your body and practicing a healthy lifestyle

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