It happens regularly: people visit a doctor but have difficulty providing essential details about their health. The most common reason is probably that people don’t realise what information we need to help them. Example: it is difficult to write out a script if I don’t know what allergies someone has.
Sometimes people incorrectly assume that all information is always at my fingertips. I don’t blame them; the health care sector is complicated and going to the doctor is understandably not everybody’s cup of tea. Therefore I hope the following five tips will help to make the most of your doctor’s visit.
Be prepared and make the most out of your doctor’s visit
1. Gather as much information as you can about your problem. Write it down, together with your questions. The doctor may ask a few things such as: when you first noticed the problem, what made it better or worse, and what your main concerns are. Make sure you know what your questions and expectations are.
- Tip: You can do some research on the Internet – but always check your findings with the doctor, as online health information may not be applicable to you.
2. When you make the appointment, allow enough time. For example, if you want to discuss a complicated issue or a few problems, consider booking a long appointment to avoid running out of time.
3. You may want to ask a friend or family member to join you. Having someone with you is helpful in many ways: to ask questions, to remember what has been discussed, for support and to give you a lift to and from the clinic if you are unwell.
4. This is important: Keep a record of all your past and present health problems. Doctors always need background information about your health. Don’t automatically assume the doctor always has all the required information.
- Tip: Your own record could include a chronological list of your medical problems, diagnoses, hospital admissions, operations, medications, vaccinations, allergies and side effects from certain medications, products or food. Outcomes of important tests are always helpful. Keep a paper record, or better, save it on your computer or phone.
5. Never leave things to the last moment. A doctor’s visit just before a holiday trip, or on a Friday afternoon may cause problems – for example if the doctor needs more tests.