The Doctors Visit

How to make the most of your doctor’s visit

Sometimes when you leave the doctor’s office you have a sense of disappointment and a feeling that your issue was not addressed completely. You can reduce the chances of this happening by following a few steps and being prepared for the visit.

Your doctor was taught to follow a certain process when taking a patinet’s history and making a diagnosis. You can become a “good patient” if you can present your symptoms in a concise, well organized manner. It may help you if you write out what you need to say before the visit. Answer these questions in this order if you can:

1. What is the main reason you are here?

You need to identify the main issue – ie why you are there. It could be facial pain or Chest pain for example. Keep this part to one sentence.

2. Describe the symptoms

  • Where is it?
  • When did it start? (don’t be like one of my patients who told me it started at her Aunt Martha’s wedding – like I should know when that was! - be specific)
  • What does it feel like?
  • How long does it last?
  • What makes it worse?
  • What makes it better if anything?
  • How bad is it on a scale of 1-10?
  • What other symptoms happen at the same time – for example, dizziness, numbness, or nausea?

3. What drugs/medications are you taking? It would be helpful to make a list. Don’t forget to include vitamins and supplements.

4. If you have had treatment or investigation for this before, what and what was the result?

5. What is your medical history? It would be helpful to write this down and bring it with you so as not to forget anything. Include allergies.

Once he/she has all this information your doctor may decide to order some tests or give you a prescription for treatment or medications.

If you don’t understand something – ask questions.

If your doctor orders something you did not expect, you can ask why. If it is a new drug make sure you understand how to take it and ask if there is anything that needs to be monitored – for example some drugs like Tegretol, need blood monitoring for liver function and electrolyte balance.

Ask how long you should wait before you return.

As soon as you leave, make notes on what happened before you forget.