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Make the Most of Your Doctor Visit

by Margaret Weiss, MPH, Director of Health Education

Do you ever feel rushed during a visit with your doctor? Have you hesitated to bring up a sensitive subject or forgotten to ask an important question? Being able to communicate openly with your doctor is a key to making good health decisions. Some people, especially older adults, shy away from this approach. In the past doctors typically took the lead in the conversation. Today a good patient-doctor relationship is a partnership with both sides taking responsibility for effective communication.

Here are some tips to try:

  • Make a list of your symptoms and bring it with you to the doctor. Be specific about what the symptom is, when it happens, how long it lasts, what makes it better or worse and anything it stops you from doing. Symptoms also include how you are feeling, such as sad, tired or confused.
  • List your medications including prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, herbal remedies and supplements. Include how much you take and how often.
  • Be prepared to talk about your everyday life including how you are eating, sleeping, activities you enjoy, your sex life, smoking and alcohol use. Briefly tell the doctor about life changes, like a death in the family or moving. When you are open and honest it helps your doctor to better understand your medical conditions.
  • Ask questions. Write down questions before your visit and bring them with you. Good questions to ask are:
    What is my main problem?
    What do I need to do?
    Why is it important for me to do this?
  • Take notes during your visit. You can ask for a brochure about your condition or written instructions.
  • Bring a friend or family member to listen with you.

After your visit you may still have questions. The Sansum Clinic Health Resource Center can answer your health questions with trusted information. Visit them at 215 Pesetas Lane on the first floor, call (800) 281-4425 x7672, or contact them through “Ask the Librarian” at www.sansumclinic.org/ask-a-librarian.

© 2014 Sansum Clinic