Which approach is likely to help you get better care the next time you see your doctor?
- Wait for your doctor to ask questions, and at the end of the appointment bring up anything important your doctor didn’t mention?
- Plan for your visit in advance and bring in notes about the most important things you want to address?
The correct answer is the second one, which is to do some planning in advance. People who ask questions and take an active role in their healthcare tend to be happier with their care and see more improvement in their health than people who do not.
Here’s how to make the most of your doctor visit:
1. Make a list of concerns to discuss. Before the visit, make a list of any changes in your health since your last visit: did you go to the emergency room, stay in the hospital, or see a different doctor, such as a specialist? Tell your healthcare provider about any of these health events and write down names of other doctors you saw. Be sure to mention any life changes since your last visit, such as divorce, death of a loved one, loss of job, or moving—any of these can affect your health and how well you take care of yourself.
2. Track your symptoms. Symptoms can be physical and can also involve your thoughts and feelings, such as feeling sad or confused. When you list your symptoms, be very specific:
- What is the symptom?
- When did it start?
- How often does it occur?
- What makes your symptoms better or worse?
- How does it affect your daily life?
3. Bring all your medicines to your appointment Your doctor needs to know about all the medications you take. This includes prescription and non-prescription (or over-the-counter) medicines, vitamins, herbal remedies, supplements, laxatives, creams, ointments, or drops. Be sure to let your doctor know if you are allergic to any medications.
4. Organize key information to bring. Bring your insurance cards, names and phone numbers of your other doctors, and the phone number of the pharmacy you use.
5. Ask questions about any medical tests prescribed, your diagnosis, and treatments.
- Medical tests-what is the test for, what will it tell you, what does it involve, how do you get ready, are there any dangers or side effects?
- Your diagnosis-what is the diagnosis, what may have caused the condition, how long will it last, is it permanent, how is it treated, how will it affect you?
- Treatments-what are your options, what are the risks or benefits of each, which is best for you considering your situation? If surgery is recommended, ask why it is necessary, whether there are other ways to treat the condition, the possible benefits and risks of the surgery.
- Medicines-what will the medicine do, how and how often do you take it, are there any likely side effects?
6. Make sure you understand your healthcare provider’s recommendations. You may want to take notes during your appointment and then repeat back what your healthcare provider says in your own words to ensure that you understand the information. You can also ask your healthcare provider to write down instructions for you or bring a friend or family member with you.For additional resources:
- Questions to Ask Your Doctor: http://www.ahrq.gov/questions
- Consumers & Patients: http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer
These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise, or medication regimen.
Before Your Appointment, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality:
Be More Involved in Your Health Care, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality:
Talking with Your Doctor, Medline Plus:
Talking with Your Doctor, National Institutes for Health Senior Health:
Talking with Your Doctor: Taking an Active Role in Your Health Care, National Institute on Aging: