That anxious moment in the exam room as you wait for the doctor to arrive is not the moment to begin preparing for your appointment. You have just 15 to 30 minutes with that doctor. To make the most of your time together—and to ensure you get the care you need—take a few minutes now to learn what you can do to prepare for your next appointment. Here’s six tips to get you started.
1. Tools for a Successful Appointment
Our mission is not only to guide you to the right doctor, but to help you get the most out of your doctor visits. The key to a successful appointment is communication. You need to communicate your needs, understand your diagnosis, and discuss your treatment options. Before you go, prepare ahead of time with Healthgrades HealthCoaches, At Your Appointment Guides, and in-depth healthcare information.
2. Identify Your Symptoms
The more accurately and completely you can describe your symptoms, the more likely it is that your doctor can identify your health problem and prescribe an effective course of treatment. Before the appointment, write down all your symptoms, noting when they started and whether they get worse at certain times of day or in certain situations. Also write a brief outline of your medical history, and be sure to list all the medications you’re currently taking.
3. Research Your Symptoms
Once you’ve identified your symptoms, research them. The more you can learn about the possible causes of your symptoms—and what your treatment options may be—the better equipped you’ll be to discuss your care with your doctor and understand his or her instructions. You can find the resources you need to research your health problems—or to learn how to stay healthy—at our sister website BetterMedicine.com.
4. Take a Health Assessment
Our HealthCoaches ask you a series of questions about a particular condition or disease. We offer HealthCoaches for the most common conditions and diseases including childhood ADHD, depression, diabetes, knee pain, and multiple sclerosis. Each is a self-guided health interview that helps you find out if you might suffer from the condition, evaluate your treatment if you’ve already been diagnosed, and get a personalized action plan, including coping tips.
5. Prepare to Lead the Conversation With Your Doctor
Sometimes it’s difficult to “find your voice” at the doctor’s office. Our At Your Appointment Guides provide you with a series of talking points and questions to ask. We have guides for common conditions like back pain; rare conditions like psoriasis; and situations that require a doctor’s care like birth control. At Your Appointment Guides contain general visit questions as well as specific questions about your symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and medications. You can even print them out!
6. Understand Your Procedure
If you’re likely to need a medical procedure—whether surgery or a diagnostic test, such as a colonoscopy or mammogram—learn all you can about the procedure before your visit so you’ll understand your options and be able to discuss them intelligently. Healthgrades offers comprehensive articles, slideshows and videos for many common procedures that explain the purpose of the procedure, how it’s performed, the risks involved and what you’ll need to do to prepare for it.
7. Make the Most of Your Next Appointment
Your relationship with your doctor is a partnership. The better able you are to communicate your needs and understand your options, the more productive your appointment will be and the more likely you are to get the treatment you need. The time you have with your doctor is all too brief. A little preparation will help you make the most of your next appointment.