DEAR DOCTOR K: I find doctor’s appointments overwhelming. I sometimes forget what I wanted to ask about. By the time I get home, I’ve forgotten half of what the doctor has told me. How can I optimize my time with my doctor?
DEAR READER: Many of my patients tell me they feel the same as you. It’s easy to feel rushed at a doctor’s appointment, or unsure of the information and instructions you’re given.
I’ve told my patients that, with a little preparation, you can get much more out of your visit.
• Prepare for the visit. Write down a list of questions in the days leading up to your visit. They can be about something complicated, such as your treatment. Or they can be simple, such as whether you should get a flu shot. Refer to your list during the visit to make sure you haven’t forgotten to ask about anything.
• Share your symptoms. Volunteer information about your symptoms and other health concerns, even if you’re not asked. The more information your physician has, the better he or she can help.
• Ask questions. When your doctor says something during the visit that you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask questions and voice concerns. Asking for clarification or making sure you understand why your doctor is prescribing a particular medication does not make you uncooperative or pushy. You have a right to understand decisions that affect your health.
• Bring a friend, spouse or adult child with you. It can help to have an extra set of ears.
• Bring a list of your current medications, the doses and the schedule of when you take them.
And don’t forget to include vitamins, supplements and over-the-counter medicines: They can have negative interactions with your prescription medications.
• Get a recap. Before leaving your appointment, ask the doctor to repeat the instructions you’re supposed to follow. Write down what you need to remember. Ask when the doctor would like you to return for your next visit.
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