It happens regularly: people visit a doctor but have difficulty providing essential details about their health.
Sometimes people incorrectly assume that all information is always at my fingertips. I don’t blame them; the healthcare sector is complicated and going to the doctor is understandably not everybody’s cup of tea.
And in all fairness, it’s not easy to remember when we had our last tetanus vaccination or in which year we were in the local hospital.
I hope the following five tips will help to make the most of your doctor’s visit.
1. Gather information
Write facts 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: Feel free to do your research on the Internet and check your findings with the doctor. Remember that online health information may not be applicable to you.
2. Allow enough time
If you want to discuss a complicated issue or a few problems, consider booking a long appointment to avoid running out of time.
3. 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. Keep a record of all your past and present health problems
This is important. 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 list of your medical problems, diagnoses, hospital admissions, operations, medications, vaccinations, allergies to or side effects from certain medications, products or food. Outcomes of important tests are always helpful. Keep a paper record or store the information in a safe place on your computer, phone or preferably electronic health record.
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 your doctor needs to do more tests or the recommended medications are not available in the pharmacy. Sometimes a last-minute visit is unavoidable but often good planning goes a long way!