Certainly, your doctor impacts your health, as he/she works with you to identify and treat your ailments. Additionally, your doctor can lead you towards a healthier lifestyle. Needless to say, the quality of your appointments can impact your health care. But how can you have a great relationship with your doctor and get the best care? Follow our 10 tips for a better medical appointment.
Why is it important to follow my tips for better medical appointments?
For starters, doctors are increasingly stressed and squeezed for time. For instance, insurance billing and overhead expenses require many doctors to spend only 15-20 minutes with each patient. Unfortunately, this is often not enough time for patients with complicated medical histories or who present with tricky symptoms. By preparing for your appointments and having a strategy for how to use the limited time effectively, you can get the most out of every medical appointment.
Similarly, planning what you want to discuss before you arrive will help you communicate as effectively as possible with your doctor. Importantly, communicating effectively communicate with your doctors helps you make more appropriate medical decisions and have better health outcomes.
Many patients feel fearful or anxious about doctor interactions.
Positive feelings about your interactions with your doctor can help you get the best care possible. But a survey of over 2,000 patients revealed that many patient-provider relationships are defined by anxiety and fear.
The 2022 survey found that 51% of patients were afraid to have conversations with providers about their health concerns and symptoms. Interestingly, more men than women reported dreading an interaction with their doctor or other provider (57% vs. 45%).
Other survey findings include:
- 69% stated they worry they won’t be able to understand the terminology their healthcare provider uses in response to their questions.
- 48% reported they have left an appointment feeling confused.
- 50% said they worry a provider will be insulted or get angry if they push to learn more about their condition.
- 69% wanted to know how to better describe their symptoms before talking with their healthcare provider.
- 39% have felt anxious before going to a doctor’s appointment. Of these:
- 38% worried about what they might learn about their health.
- 38% felt they didn’t have enough information to help them prepare for their visit.
- 55% want their doctor to provide more details about treatments and medication.
If any of these anxieties apply to you, I recommend you address your concerns with your doctor. Importantly, if your doctor isn’t open to a conversation around your anxieties, it might be time to find a new doctor. Realize that if you can’t conquer your anxieties about medical appointments, it will be harder for you to have constructive appointments. If you have persistent anxieties that won’t ease, consider seeing a mental health provider to help you address your issues.
Prepare for appointments!
To get the most out of medical appointments, prepare yourself ahead of time. Firstly, write down everything you want to discuss. I recommend you keep an ongoing journal of questions, concerns, symptoms, medications taken, and any other pertinent information.
Your notes will avoid reliance on potentially faulty memories when describing your health to your doctor. Therefore, write down as many details as possible. Importantly, you never know what details will make it easier for your doctor to diagnose and treat you.
List of questions and concerns.
Write down everything you want to discuss with your doctor. Then put them in order of priority so you can make sure you have time to get to your most important questions.
For instance, if you’ve been experiencing symptoms, write down as many details as possible, including frequency:
- When did they first appear?
- How long do they last?
- How often do they appear?
Additionally, write down what you’re doing each time your symptoms start: For example, were you eating? Working? Exercising? Sitting? Driving?
And note the severity of your symptoms and how they impact your life:
- How severe are the symptoms?
- Do they interfere with your day-to-day life?
- Does anything help relieve the symptoms? Does anything make them worse?
Finally, make sure you have an up-to-date medication list to share with the doctor, including over-the-counter medications and supplements. If you are not taking a particular prescribed medication for any reason, make a note of that.
And if you have medications that you take “as needed”, keep a journal of when you take these and the symptoms that led you to take them each time. Lastly, if you use recreational drugs, write that down as well.
ZaggoCare can help!
Of course, the ZaggoCare System makes it easy for you to prepare for appointments. Our notebook makes it easy to keep all your notes and questions in one place. And our accordion file makes it easy to keep all your healthcare documents organized and handy. Moreover, our ZaggoCare Guide helps you identify which questions to ask your doctor at every step of your journey.
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Bring someone with you.
Whenever possible, bring a trusted adult with you to medical appointments. This friend or family member can help take notes for you, and help you think of questions to ask. Additionally, a second set of ears is always a good idea, since you each might interpret information differently. And, importantly, your friend or family member can provide emotional support, which is often much needed when dealing with a serious medical condition.
10 tips for a better medical appointment.
These tips for a better medical appointment will help you have more effective medical appointments, which can help you get the best care and outcome possible:
- Use your prepared list of questions and concerns, prioritizing your health issues/complaints in order of severity and/or concern. If you’re interrupted, pick up where you left off. And don’t wait until the end to bring up a serious concern or issue.
- Be honest with your doctor. Although some topics can seem embarrassing, your doctor has “seen it all” and is legally required to maintain your privacy.
- Take detailed notes at all appointments. Also, consider recording appointments with your phone – but ask first. Share the information with all members of your medical team at future appointments.
- If you don’t understand what your doctor tells you, ask him/her to repeat the information and/or explain it in another way. If needed, ask for a language interpreter.
- When your doctor gives you a diagnosis, ask what led to this decision. Ask if testing will confirm the diagnosis. And ask if other conditions could be responsible for your symptoms. For more information, read 10 Steps to Reduce Your Risk of Diagnostic Error.
- Listen carefully to recommendations for testing and treatments. Ask about pros and cons. Work with your doctor to make decisions together. And realize you have a right to refuse testing, treatments and/or medications, but don’t make rash decisions. For more information, read The Importance of Shared Decision Making.
- Keep copies of all important documents (test results, etc.) together and organized. Bring them to all appointments.
- If something doesn’t seem right, speak up!
- If you share information you found online, be open to a conversation. Don’t insist that your information is more relevant than what your doctor has.
- Be patient and calm during appointments.
The time after appointments is also important.
Taking the necessary follow-up steps can be just as important as the appointment itself.
Firstly, make any recommended appointments with specialists and/or for testing.
Additionally, if your symptoms change, or you think of more questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor.
Importantly, follow up on test results! Never assume that “no news is good news”. Unfortunately, test results, even critical ones, fall through the cracks. So, ask your doctor when the results will be available, mark your calendar, and follow up if you don’t get your results.
Furthermore, once you receive your test results, ask your doctor (in person, by phone, or by email) if the results confirm the initial diagnosis or possibly indicate a different diagnosis. For more information, read What You Need to Know About Medical Tests.
Want to learn more?
In addition to my tips for a better medical appointment, read these posts for more tips on how to make the most out of every medical appointment:
- Understanding Medical Information Is Harder Than Most Realize.
- Why Take Detailed Notes at Doctor Appointments?
- Should You Record Medical Appointments?
- 10 Tips to Communicate Better with Doctors.
- What is the Best Time of Day for Medical Care?
- How Can You Get the Best Healthcare? Actively Participate!
NOTE: I updated this post on 11-1-22.