Get Healthy Carson City: How to get the most out of your doctor

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Take an active role in your health care and you will get better care. One way to do this is to make sure you get the most out of your doctor visits by preparing ahead of time and creating an agenda for your visit with your doctor. When you prepare for your appointment ahead of time, both you and your doctor will find the visit more helpful.

Here are some tips you can follow for what to do before, during, and after your visit with your doctor. These tips can help you and your doctor work together to improve your health.

Talk to your doctor

Even though it is hard, talk about the issues that are embarrassing or scary at the beginning of your visit. This will give your doctor plenty of time to address them with you. Your doctor has heard everything before and is here to help you.

Make sure our doctor’s office has received all labs, tests, and records from any specialists you have seen since your last visit. Provide your doctor with a list of any changes to your medical history since your last visit. This includes recent emergency department visits or hospital stays, surgeries, new diagnoses, new medicines, etc. Do not assume because it is in a medical computer somewhere, that your doctor is aware of it or has easy access to it.

Be prepared

Usually, you will only have about 15 minutes of time with your doctor. To make sure you and your doctor get the most out of your time, be sure to think about your visit ahead of time. Think about your concerns and questions. Write these things down before your visit. Make a list and bring it to your visit (one copy for your notes and one for your doctor to review, some of your concerns may be linked). With a list, you will not have to worry about remembering everything you need to tell your doctor. Here are a few things you might consider before your visit:

Think about concerns and questions you have. Write these down. Start first with what is most important to you and end with the least important. Bring the list to your visit. Be ready to work with your doctor to reorder your list, if needed.

If you are a new patient, bring as much information as possible with you to help your new doctor learn your health history. If you are not a new patient, you only need to bring information with you that is new or has changed since your last visit with your doctor.

Consider creating a “health journal” for yourself on paper in a binder. Your health journal can include things like health problems you have or have had, test and imaging (x-ray) results, hospital and emergency room discharge instructions. Bring the journal or health history to your appointments. Bring any logs of blood pressure, blood sugars, daily weights, anything your doctor has asked you to follow and record.

Make a list of all the medicines you take. Include information about when and how often you take the medicine. Write down the strength of the medicine, for example: metformin 500mg 3x/day or 1 a.m. & 2 p.m. The list should also include any over-the-counter medications, birth control, vitamins or supplements you take; even things you take only as needed such as headache meds. Also include any allergies you may have. It is very important that you have a current medication list in your wallet at all times. You never know what might happen or when. Your medication list is a very quick way for any medical provider to assess your medical history, current problems and avoid complications.

If you have an especially complicated issue(s), ask a family member or close friend if they can come with you to your appointment to listen, take notes, ask questions, and clarify answers.

If you will need an interpreter, call your doctor’s office to let them know ahead of time.

Be sure to take your lists with you to your visit. The Patient Pre-Visit Checklist can help you with preparing for your visit with your doctor.

What your doctor needs to know

It is important to share any information you can, even if you are embarrassed. Give your doctor the following information during the exam:

• Your symptoms. When they started, how bad or frequent they are. What seems to cause them or make them better.

• Personal information. For example, tell your doctor if you are stressed, have changed jobs, moved or other challenges you may be facing.

• Any side effects you have from your medicine(s). Be sure to tell your doctor if your medicine makes you feel sick or if you think you may be allergic to it. Also let them know if you are having trouble paying for or taking your medicine as advised. Your doctor may be able to help find different medicines for you to take or explain why the ones you are taking are the right choice.

Ask questions

Do not be afraid to speak up during your appointment. It is important for you to let your doctor know if you do not understand something. If you do not ask questions, your doctor will think you understand everything. If you cannot understand what your doctor is explaining, ask him or her to explain it in better detail, possibly using pictures or brochures. Or tell your doctor what you think they have told you to insure you understood them correctly.

If you run out of time, make a plan to get the rest of your questions answered. Tell your doctor when you need more time to talk about something. If the doctor is not available to help, you should be able to talk to an assistant or a nurse. If no one else is available, see if you can schedule another appointment to ask the rest of your questions.

Take information home with you

Taking written or recorded information home with you can be helpful. It can help you remember information and instructions any time you need to. Your doctor is a good source of accurate information you can trust. The following are types of information you can take home with you:

• Notes you have taken during the appointment. It is ok for you to write down the information your doctor gives you. Sometimes it helps to bring a friend or family member with you. They can help write down the answers to your questions and other information shared by the doctor or nurse. You can also ask your doctor to provide notes for you.

• Written instructions from your doctor.

• A tape recording. Ask your doctor if it is OK for you to record the appointment to help you correctly remember everything.

• Brochures or other educational materials. If there are not any available, ask where or how you can get additional information, for example

Things to consider

Make sure to follow any instructions you and your doctor discussed during the visit. This could include taking medicine, preparing for a test, or scheduling an appointment with a specialist. If you are confused or if you have forgotten some information, it is OK to contact your doctor. The following are some common reasons you may need to call your doctor after your appointment:

• If you have any additional questions after the appointment. Ask to leave a message with the doctor or speak with a nurse.

• If you start to feel worse or have problems with your medicine.

• If you had tests and have not got the results.

Good health is in your hands

See your doctor regularly to follow-up on chronic medical problems and general wellness checks for preventive health care. Carry an up-to-date medication list with you at all times, which includes any allergies you may have. Be prepared for your doctor visits and ask questions to get the most from your doctor. You will become health smart and have the greatest opportunity to have your best health.

For information about services and programs available to you through Carson City Health and Human Services, please visit our website at, or give us a call at 775-887-2190. You can also find us at 900 E. Long St., in Carson City, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter @CCHealthEd, or Instagram @GetHealthCarsonCity.

The above information was derived in large part from the webpage titled: How to get the most from your doctor visit, and edited by Colleen Lyons, MD, Board-Certified Family Physician and Carson City Health Officer.


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