Making the Most of your Doctor Visits

Visiting a health care professional can be stressful at times; however, being prepared for your visit can minimize the stress and help you make the most of your visit. Your objective is to create a partnership with your doctor so you can discuss options and make decisions together. Your doctor can help you manage your health and receive care appropriate to your unique conditions and circumstances. 
The following ideas will help you to make the most of your doctor visits:

Before your visit
Prepare for your visit by writing down important things you want to discuss. This keeps you from forgetting to bring up important topics that needed to be addressed. 

  1. Observe your problem or condition and write down the symptoms and when they occur and what makes them worse. 
  2. Write down any questions you want to discuss with your doctor. From your list select the top 2–3 questions that are most important and take them with you. (Below is a list of possible questions to ask your doctor).
  3. List all prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, and herbs or supplements you are taking. Take this list with you.
  4. If you are feeling too sick or nervous to address your concerns, ask a friend or relative to go with you who can take notes and ask questions for you.

During your visit
Take advantage of the opportunity to have meaningful dialogue with your doctor. This is your chance to get your questions answered and to discuss various treatment options.

  1. Report any illnesses or changes that have occurred since your last visit.
  2. Discuss your top three questions. 
  3. Be sure to let the doctor know what medications, herbs and supplements you are currently taking. 

Before you leave the office
Don’t leave until you are clear about the things you have discussed. You also want to know who you can talk to if you have questions down the road. 

  1. Discuss options and then agree on an action plan with your doctor.Write it down to help you remember any specific steps you need to take.
  2. Have your doctor explain anything you are unclear about.
  3. Ask who—and when—you may call if you have more questions.

Possible questions to ask your doctor

  • What do you think my problem may be (diagnosis)?
  • What is the best way to further diagnose or treat this problem?
  • What evidence do you have to support the testing or treatment you suggest?
  • What are the alternatives to the testing or treatment you suggest?
  • What benefit and/or harm can I expect from this testing or treatment?
  • How will this testing or treatment make me feel?
  • What is the cost of this testing or treatment?
  • What can I do to prevent other problems from developing or to keep this problem from getting worse?
  • What data do you have showing the results of your care involving patients with this problem?
  • Where can I go for additional reliable information about this problem?
  • What is my chance of survival, and how long will I live if I undergo this treatment?
  • What will my "quality of life" be with and without this treatment?