Your Doctor Visit
Make the most of your doctor visit with these handy tips.
Before Your Visit
Update your family history: what disease family members have, and for those who are deceased, the cause of death. This lets your doctor know your genetic risks for things like heart disease or breast cancer. Include new additions to the family, as well.
WHN Tip: Here's a great pamphlet - Your Family Health and Medical Record. This helps you track medications, vaccinations, doctors information, surgeries, allergies, etc. Fill it out and update it after each doctor visit or when you have new medical information. Make several copies. Print out extra copies of pages 7-12 if you have more than one child. (Thanks to the Texas Cooperative Extension.)
WHN Tip: Fill It Out
Medical Appointment Tracking Form [WHN page link TK] This way you can track each appointment and your progress. Fill out the form and add it to your folder after each appointment. You can also fill in on your computer, save to your desktop and update as needed. You'll need Acrobat Reader. It's FREE.
Bring your your insurance, Medicare or Medicaid Card(s). Check your insurance policy or talk to your agent about co-pays.
If you are not well, write down your symptoms and when they started.
Have you seen additional medical practitioners since your last visit? Bring their contact info.
Bring a list of medications you are taking, the prescribing physician, what they are for, how long you have been taking them and when the prescription ends.
Don't forget to list any nonprescription medications, herbal supplements or minerals and vitamins you are taking.
WHN Expert Tip: Bring Reports and Copies of Tests
"Bring along a written copy of any diagnostic reports, any tests, and if you've had surgery, bring along a copy of the surgical report." Dr. Malton A. Schexneider, PT, MMSc
At the Doctor's Office
Provide your list of medications and fill out any other necessary forms.
Be concise when describing symptoms (when they started, what they feel like and answer questions as best you can).
List all tests and health care services you've had in the last 6 months (from pregnancy to stress to physical therapy) and give the name of the physicians and location where they were taken.
List any health, medical or lifestyle changes — positive or negative.
WHN Expert Tip: Spill the Beans
"Mention all changes in work or social habits. Have you lost your job? Do you party every other night? Spill the beans. This information will offer your physician a complete picture of your current lifestyle, and that's what he or she needs to make valuable recommendations." David R. Donnersberger, MD
Ask questions about things you don't understand (tests, procedures, symptoms, diagnoses, medications, etc.).
Although you may be in pain, be polite.
If Medication Is Advised
Make sure you know what it is for and that the doctor knows the other medications you are currently taking.
Note details about the prescribed medications. Read What You Need to Know About Your Medications for a list of questions to ask about your medications.
WHN Expert Tip: Insurance Coverage
"Not sure what prescriptions are covered under your insurance plan? Head to your insurance company's web site and print out the complete list of medications covered under your prescription plan. This will save time and money!" Jennifer Walker, RN, BSN
What to Ask
Here is a starter list of questions about meds, tests and other health-related issues. Feel free to add on your own:
What is the medication called?
What is this drug(s) or treatment(s) for?
When should I take this medication? Is time of day important?
How is it administered? Should I take it with water or food?
Are there food or drug interactions to be aware of?
What are the possible side effects or problems that can occur?
What are the brand names and the generic names of the drug(s)? (Have the doctor/nurse write them down for you.)
Are there any changes needed regarding my current medications?
Are there any activity, dietary or alcohol restrictions?
How long will I have to take this medication?
What should I do if I forget to take it?
Should I talk to you before I refill the prescription?
Should I call you to talk about the progress of the medication/treatment?
What's the next step after the medication?
If tests are ordered, what are they are for?
Who schedules the tests?
How soon should I have them?
What are you looking for?
How are the tests done?
What information will the results provide?
Is this test the only way to find out that information?
What are the benefits and risks of having this test?
How accurate is the test?
Is there anything I should do to prepare for the tests?
Will the test be uncomfortable?
Would the test have any possible side effects?
When will the results will be ready?
Who tells me the results?
What's the next step after the test?
WHN Tip: Extra Copies
Request that all tests and procedures be marked "Copy to Patient" so you can receive copies for your files. If you're seeing multiple doctors, request that a second copy be forwarded to your primary care doctor. Provide your doctor's name and address, if they are at a different clinic or location.
What is the exact diagnosis and prognosis?
Why do I have this problem?
WHN Tip: Ask the doctor or nurse to explain medical terms and conditions you don't understand.
How will this diagnosis affect my overall health and in the future?
Will more tests be needed?
Regarding diagnosed conditions, what treatment options are available?
What are the possible side effects that can result from each one?
What are the possible benefits from each treatment? When will I start to see them?
What are the chances that the treatment will work?
Where will the treatment take place?
What pre-existing conditions might influence the treatment or prognosis?
What will happen if I don't get treatment right away?
What are the costs for each treatment and will my insurance cover it?
What is the typical recovery time for my condition?
What can I do to help speed recovery?
Should I make any dietary, lifestyle or medication changes? If so, how will that affect the recommended treatment? (For example, could you take less of this medication if you lost weight?)
WHN Tip: Read this if you want a second opinion.
Are there organizations or specialists that deal with this kind of problem or situation? Is there a patient support group?
Should I see a specialist? Can the doctor recommend one? How soon should I see this specialist?
What resources (web sites, magazines, etc.) have more information?
Can that doctor contact you via phone with follow-up questions regarding my diagnosis and/or condition?
When is the best time to call? What days are best?
If you are away on vacation or unavailable, who will be able to answer any follow-up questions I may have?
When should I meet with your doctor again?
At the end of your appointment, consider requesting reminder phone calls, e-mails or postcards (whatever works best for you) about regular check- ups.
After the Visit
Keep a diary of your condition. Track the name and details of each medications. Note changes (better or worse....).
Watch for side effects from medications. Write down symptoms.
If you believe you are experiencing a side effect, or if your condition worsens, contact your doctor or pharmacist right away. Tell them if you have done anything to try to treat it. If it is an emergency, call 9-1-1.
Contact your doctor's office with follow-up questions regarding your medications, tests, treatments, insurance information and/or diagnosis.
If your doctor said you need additional tests or suggests you see a specialist, make the appointment.
Click here [WHN page link TK] for helpful forms related to this topic!
The information provided here is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice. These tips are from doctors, nurses and people who have shared real-life advice; always check with a doctor or appropriate professional you trust before making any health care-related decisions.
Thank you ...
A special thank you to the industry professionals, doctors, nurses, patients and families who gave us their time, insight and real-life advice.
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