Preparing for your doctor’s appointment

Plan ahead with these tips to help you cover everything you want to with your physician.

Years ago, the physician and patient were able to take the time to discuss any concerns the patient might have. Nowadays, with new guidelines for physicians, not many of them have the luxury to spend extra time with a patient. Therefore, developing a basic plan before meeting with your doctor can help you get the most from your appointment. The following are some tips that will help you cover everything you want to with your physician or medical team.

  1. Make a list of your concerns or what is important for you to discuss. On your list, put the most important health questions first. For example, are you concerned about a flu shot or how you are reacting to a certain medicine you are prescribed?  Bring up your biggest concerns first, so you get those questions answered.
  2. Take a current list of all your prescriptions and over the counter medicine, such as vitamins and supplements, with you. Make sure this is current. The doctor can tell if any supplements and medications are counteracting one another.  Also, bring all your current insurance cards and your ID card such as a driver’s license. 
  3. If you see numerous physicians, have a list with their addresses and phone numbers. This helps your current doctor and staff to concentrate on your health needs instead of looking up addresses and phone numbers. Many hospital and medical groups have what we call a health portal. You log into their website on the computer and bring up your information. If you have availability to this system, print off your information and give it to your physician. Do this especially if this is a new physician you are seeing.
  4. If you wear glasses and hearing aids, make sure you have those on when visiting a physician.  You want to be able to read the materials she or he gives you or hear exactly what they are saying. If you are hard of hearing, share that with your physician. If they know this is the case, they will speak up and slower so you are able to hear what they are saying. If you do have difficulty, it is a good idea to bring a family member or good friend with you. If you do bring someone with you, go over your list of concerns before you visit the physician. In case you forget to ask the doctor something, your family or friend can remind you to ask the question. The person you bring may even take notes for you as you are talking to the doctor, so you have those to review when you return home.
  5. Let your physician know what has happened in your life since your last visit. Whether you had a fall, experienced stress, were unable to sleep well, or had a change in your appetite or energy, your physician should know. These changes might be triggered by a more complicated condition. It is very important you have this checked by your doctor.

There are many publications for seniors that will review the best way to talk to your doctor. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institute on Aging have a wealth of informative materials. You can find publications at your physician’s office, the local Commission on Aging, the District Health Department and libraries. If you have access to a computer, use their websites and print materials to read.

In order to feel good and stay healthy, we must be proactive and have a plan when we visit the physician. Make a list of questions and prioritize them before going for your appointment. Bring a companion that can help you ask questions or understand what the physician is saying.

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