Advocate for your health: How to prepare for a doctor’s appointment

There is nothing more important than your health, and getting the most out of your doctor’s visit is essential to that! When it comes to preparing for an appointment with your doctor and healthcare team, it’s vital to make the most of that time. Traditional medical appointments are usually only 15-20 minutes. Making the most of your time will help you to get everything you need while minimizing your stress.  

How do I get the most out of my doctor’s appointment? 

  • Keep records! While you understand your health is important, it can be easy to forget the details. Keep a symptom, food, and lifestyle habits diary and bring it to your appointment. This can really help your doctor by giving them the details they need to diagnose and treat you. For example, if you have been having frequent bloating, keep a log of how often and how severe they have been. Note what activities you were doing and foods you were eating at the time. This information will be much more helpful to your doctor than just saying “I’ve had a lot of bloating lately.” 
  • Request records from other providers and keep them in a digital and printed format to bring to your appointment.
  • Bring a list of your medications and supplements.
  • Have a prioritized list of 3-5 questions and concerns written down and at hand during your visit.
  • Know your family history! Make sure you know the most important medical details about your family. This includes incidents of cancer, diabetes, heart disease or mental illness. If there are chronic medical issues, you should know about it. 
  • Be honest. I know it’s intimidating but the more you share the more your doctor can help you. Be open and honest about your symptoms, habits, and the details of your medical history. This will help to accurately diagnose you. What you tell your doctor is completely confidential. If you feel something is off with your provider, know it’s completely okay and normal to get a second opinion. You can even switch providers completely.

  • Bring a family member or friend. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted visitor policies and other hospital and doctors office protocol. Some of these regulations have loosened up by now. If it would make you feel more comfortable and supported, see if you can bring a family member or friend to your appointment. They can help you listen and remember all of the questions you wanted to ask and information you wanted to gather.
  • Keep an open mind. With all of the information on the internet about health, it can be tempting for patients to try to self-diagnose. While it is great to be curious and proactive about your health, just remember that the internet is not a doctor and often more scary than helpful. Some patients who self-diagnose come in with a fixed idea about the treatment they should receive. This may distract the healthcare team from asking the appropriate questions and getting to the root cause. Hear your doctor out when they explain the reasoning for their diagnosis and treatment plan. At the same time, only you know your own body. If you feel like a doctor is not listening to you or you have been misdiagnosed, don’t be afraid to request additional testing. You can also get a second opinion. 
  • Follow-up. Ask for a copy of your progress notes, labs and imaging reports to be sent to you for your records. 
  • Stay in touch. Ask your doctor how to best contact them if you need to reach them and as you work through your treatment plan, keep notes for next time! 

What to know about a telehealth appointment 

Since the pandemic began, telehealth has become more common. Telehealth appointments are cost-effective without the need to take a half or full day off of work. They open the door for patients to visit with specialists and other doctors that they would not have access to otherwise. I am thankful for telehealth because it allows me to help patients, no matter where they are! Check out my team at Planted Forward. We see patients worldwide! When it comes to preparing for your telehealth visit, the same tips apply as an in-person visit. However, there is the added element of navigating technology. 

Read the instructions prior

When visiting a doctor virtually, the same rules of preparedness apply – bring all your information and be ready to share it with your healthcare provider. My biggest advice is to read all the instructions and details you receive prior to your appointment.  Did you get an email of what to expect ahead of your appointment? Don’t ignore it! Reading this ahead of time could save you stress and confusion when it’s time for your visit. There might be an app that you have to download or an account you have to create in advance.

Make sure you have a stable internet connection and make sure your technology is working and charged. I also recommend logging on 10-15 minutes before your appointment to avoid any glitches and give yourself time to refocus on the purpose of the visit – your health! While it may seem like this is taking up extra time in your day, think about it this way, you would be spending this time driving, parking and sitting in a waiting room.

Be your own biggest advocate

You only get one body in this lifetime and YOU are the biggest advocate for your health! Only you know the ins and outs of your body and what’s normal and abnormal. In the midst of work, parenting and other outside stressors, it can be easy to treat a doctor’s appointment as another task to check off of the to-do list. However, neglecting to prepare for your appointment is unproductive and can lead to undetected health issues in the long run. 

I practice lifestyle medicine which means that I am all about overall wellness vs. just treating health issues when they arise. By coming prepared to your appointment, we can proactively prevent health issues and work together for a treatment plan that’s tailored to you. 

Your doctors want to help! While we study your files and try our best to provide each patient with the individual attention you all deserve, help us help you! We are only human so reminders, background information, and details are all encouraged. Make the most of facetime with your doctors. It will pay off! 

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