Top 6 Ways To Get The Most Out of Your Doctor’s Appointment

Written by Pliro
Oct 1, 2018 Last updated: Oct 1, 2018

Nowadays we live longer than at any other time in history. Most of us will have the chance of living a longer life, however, a long life doesn’t necessarily equate to healthy life. Modern society is experiencing a rise in chronic illnesses. With the advancement of diagnostic technology, more and more of us can become aware of them earlier in life (for better or for worse) making us responsible of having an easier transition into our golden years. The average citizen has one main tool to succeed with this mission, sound medical advice. This can be achieved by making regular appointments with your doctor.

Why and when you should go to the doctor?

There are plenty of reasons to go to the doctor with regularity, even when you are perfectly healthy. We are in a new age of healthcare. Doctors are no longer only for a time of illness. They are a very valuable resource that we need to rely on in every way possible.

Gender, medical history, geography, and other factors affect the ideal number of times you should go to the doctor for a routine checkup. One appointment per year is a reasonable frequency for the average person. Why YOU should do this regularly? Well here are a few things to get you started:

  • To create an understanding with your doctor. If your doctor is familiar with you and your medical history then he/she can be effective at creating more personalized treatments and preventing health problems. This will also make the experience of going to the clinic/hospital much more comfortable.
  • To determine your risk of developing certain diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc.
  • To keep your basic health parameters updated like weight, blood pressure, etc.
  • It can allow you to keep track of your own mental health. Stress can affect many aspects of your health before you even notice.
  • To create a complete and accurate medical file that in certain cases may save your life.

Of course, if you suffer from some condition that requires close monitoring, then obviously, more frequent visits and more rigorous follow up.

Now, to the main question, how to get the most out of a doctor’s appointment?

#1 Don’t be afraid

Research shows that even while holding written guides of questions to ask, patients still feel like they cannot express their desires directly to their doctors. This is a problem that has several different causes. Sometimes doctors don’t encourage patients to ask questions, the patient may feel intimidated or embarrassed, the clinic or hospital may be particularly busy which adds a factor of stress for both, etc.

You have your questions and they are valid and need to be answered. If a doctor refuses to answer them or intimidates you into silence, them that is not the right doctor for you. Most patients ask questions around the same topics: Their diagnosis, possible causes and treatment.

Some guides exist but you know what your priorities are. Make your own list of questions.

#2  Your tone is important

You need to express yourself with confidence. Don’t take a passive tone, be assertive. If you have a question about your cholesterol, don’t say “I think my cholesterol was high, do you think that’s bad?” you know it is, instead, ask “my cholesterol was high, can it be treated with medication?, if so, which medication?”.

Speaking directly will ensure that your doctor have accurate information and won’t waste time trying to figure out what you mean or are too shy to say. Introverts may find this difficult or even rude but it is in fact the exact opposite, you are making the doctor’s job easier.

#3 Communicate your symptoms

This is something that most patients will obviously know should be done, however, for some this may be difficult. Some symptoms may be taboo or simply too embarrassing.

Just remember, your doctor have seen far worse than anything you may describe and is a professional, meaning that he should be able of treating you with respect and decency no matter what you tell him. Physical and emotional symptoms are equally relevant and need to be mentioned.

Finally, try to make a list of your symptoms before the appointment. It will prevent you to forget any small detail.

#4 Understanding is key

Any treatment will be less effective if YOU don’t understand some basic elements about it. The name of the pills and how often to take them are not the only important elements of treatment. You need to know if any kind of follow up will be necessary (more appointments or particular tests), if there are some kind of side effects to expect, will the treatment impose some limitations to your daily routine?,  how long is the treatment meant to last and how it’s success will be measured.

#5 Keep things simple

A very common mistake that a lot of people make is unloading every single health concern that they have ever had on the first appointment with a new doctor. This is not efficient because, then, more important matters will receive less attention.

This is a chance to prioritize. Make a list. In this list only the most important concerns about your health should be included. Pain, family history, recent symptoms, unusual changes in mood or sleep, etc. The more noticeable and/or severe problems should be discussed at the first appointment.

#6 Don’t leave with doubts

You and your doctor have been talking for the last 45 minutes. During this time he wrote a lot of things and said a lot of things, you tried to write everything he said but still have some doubts but the session is ending. A good advice is to save the last 5 to 10 minutes to make a brief recap of all the things you discussed and the proposed treatment.

Any last questions should be asked here and properly answered by your doctor.