Making the most of your appointment
By: Beth Mork, M.D.
You’ve called and made an appointment to see your doctor. You want to make the most out of your visit. After all your time is valuable. Likewise, your physician has constraints on his or her schedule.
While your physician will work to gather key information and facts from you in order to provide the best course of treatment, there are a few things that you can do you make sure that the time spent with your doctor is used as efficiently and effectively as possible.
The first is to see your relationship with your doctor as a partnership. Your doctor has the medical knowledge to provide care and treatment, but his or her diagnosis will be based on the information that you provide. The better organized and prepared you are to relay information about your symptoms or condition, the more likely your physician will be able to make an accurate diagnosis and recommend effective treatment.
Preparing for your appointment:
If you are seeing the doctor because of a particular ailment, note your symptoms and when and how often they occur. Does any particular activity make the symptoms worse? Is it worse at a certain time of day? Have you tried treating your condition with over-the-counter medications or other alternatives? What part of the body is affected? Can you describe your pain – is it dull, throbbing, burning, sharp?
While your physician will be gathering information during your appointment, it is likely you have questions as well. It’s a good idea to jot them down on a piece of paper and bring this with you to your appointment. This ensures that all your questions will be asked – and answered.
Before your appointment, make sure you have a list of all prescription and over the counter medications – with dosages – that you are currently taking.
Be prepared to discuss your medical history. Your doctor will want to know about any previous hospitalizations or other ongoing medical conditions, even if they are not the focus of your current appointment. Take note, and be ready to discuss, any hereditary diseases or conditions that tend to run in your family.
If you have had tests – such as X-rays or an MRI - done by a specialist, bring along the reports and contact information for the other physician. This helps your primary care physician coordinate your care so that treatments work with, not against, each other.
If your condition is complicated and you are making serious decisions about your future medical care, you might want to bring along a trusted friend or family member to your appointment. This person can help you collect information by listening and taking notes. Decide ahead of time how involved you want this person to be and communicate that with them before your appointment. For instance, do you want them to step outside of the room during the physical examination? Do you want them to ask questions, or just help you listen and collect information?
During your time with your doctor, review your list of questions. Make sure to ask your high priority questions first, even if they are frightening or embarrassing. The important thing is to get your issues out in the open so they can be treated appropriately.
When your doctor talks to you, listen carefully. Take notes if you feel that will help you remember better. If your doctor says something that you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to say so. Repeat what the doctor said back to him or her to make sure that you have heard correctly.
If your doctor recommends a certain test or procedure, you should find out why you need it, who will do it and where it will be performed. Ask about risks involved, cost and alternatives to the procedure.
After your appointment
During a typical appointment, you will have about 15 minutes with your doctor. Make the most of this time by preparing and coming to the appointment with information and questions. Your doctor wants to assist you to resolve all your medical issues. You can help by taking an active role and becoming a partner in your own medical care.
Dr. Mork is a board certified family practice physician at Raiter Clinic in Cloquet.