How To Get The Most Out Of Your Doctor Appointments

by Allie Brito February 02, 2017

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Doctor Appointments

It is no secret that as the years pass us by, doctor visits become a more frequent occurrence. Aging adults depend on their physicians more than any other age group. Unfortunately though, that 20 minute appointment leaves many seniors feeling more confused than before they came in- but it's not the doctors fault. How can that be? Isn't it the doctors job to keep us from dying? The truth is, if you or your aging loved one expect your primary-care physicians to keep you alive and well all on their own, without your help and effort, you’re in for a rude awakening.

Especially for aging adults, these 20 minute appointments are vital to keeping yourself in tip top shape; if you don’t use that time wisely and convey the correct and most important information to your doctor, you could find yourself at risk for missed diagnoses, problems with medication interactions, and ineffective treatments. To avoid self-sabotage via wasting that precious time with your doctor, you must understand that the most important thing you can do as a patient, is form a collaborative and communicative partnership with your Physician-it is a two way street. After all, they aren't mind readers! A successful health plan is one where doctor and patient work together to identify potential health problems and possible solutions. 

Your doctor cannot give you the care you deserve if you aren’t actively involved in your healthcare. This all starts with a plan before you even step foot inside the doctors office. To get the most out of your doctor appointments, here is what 660 primary-care physicians surveyed by Consumer Reports say they wish more patients did:

Make A List of Your Symptoms and Medical Conditions Before Your Visit

If you’re ill, or even if you are health, it can be overwhelming when you find yourself in the middle of your appointment struggling to remember what information you should be sharing with your doctor. According to the National Institute on Health, symptoms can be physical, such as pain, fever, a lump, change in energy level, insomnia; the list can go on and on. Remember that symptoms can also be conveyed through your thoughts and feelings. For example, you should tell your doctor if you’ve been feeling sad lately or struggle to remember things more than normal.

Keeping a list of all your medical conditions is a must. Not just for your doctor, but for your family members or emergency responders. Your doctor needs to know these details in order to rule out some diagnosis and avoid prescribing you medications that could be dangerous to you if you suffer from previously existing conditions. Keep a list of these conditions on your refrigerator and also give it to a designated family member in case of emergency. 

Be specific when you list your symptoms; you can rarely give too little information. Here is what your list should include:

  • What is the symptom?
  • When did it start?
  • What time of day does it happen and how long does it last?
  • How often does it occur?
  • Are there any factors that make it worse or better?
  • Does it prevent you from doing things? 

List Your Medications, Dosages, and Side Effects if Any

This is one thing that I know my Grandmother doesn’t do, and it scares me. It is imperative that you list every single medication that you take, including eye drops, vitamins, prescription drugs, over-the-counter meds, and even laxatives. Your doctor needs to know everything you take because sometimes medications can have adverse reactions when taken together. Also, many medications can cause side effects that could be the reason for your visit in the first place. Modifying the dosage or time of day you take that medication could help alleviate those side effects.

We suggest keeping a written or typed list that describes in detail all your medications, dosages, time of day taken, and side effects. Put this on your refrigerator in case of emergency for loved ones to refer to and for you to take with you to your appointments.

Briefly Describe Your Every Day Habits

Do you nap daily? Do you exercise weekly? How intense are your workouts? How often, if ever do you drink alcohol or smoke? Details such as this can help your doctor get a better understanding of potential risk factors that can affect your health.

Also discuss any recent changes to your daily habits or life. Events such as a move, a divorce, or loss of a loved one can all help your doctor piece together the full picture of your current life and allow them to figure out the best treatment options for you.

More Advice From Your Doctor

  • A little patience and respect goes a long way.
  • Research your doctor and the services/treatments they provide to get a clear understanding of what to expect when you discuss these treatments later on during your appointment.
  • Bring a list of all your current doctors and their numbers as well as your insurance card and contact information of your preferred pharmacy.
  • Take notes during your visit. Your doctor is giving you information to make your life easier- write it down and implement it.
  • Ask questions if you don’t understand something you’ve discussed during your appointment.

Regardless of your age, taking these steps to get the most out of your doctor appointments can only improve your health, not hurt it. For seniors who often develop age-related disease and injury, the minutes you spend with your doctor become more valuable than ever-spend them wisely.

Allie Brito
Allie Brito


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