Getting the most from your doctor.

How to Get the Most from Your Doctor

I get a lot of questions from patients surrounding: “How should I treat my doctor appointments?” “What should I ask?” and, “I feel like it’s a one way street.” So, I am sharing with you some of the advice I have given to my patients.

For anyone 65 years or more, a visit to their doctor can be a real advantage. It can prevent potential problems and treat known conditions. It is perhaps best scheduled as an event much like the seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter.

I use the word “event” deliberately, rather than a chore to be avoided or dreaded. As an event, there are ways to take advantage of the visit – to maximize the benefits. A doctor visit as a planned occurrence can represent a major tool for independence and control, and which of us doesn’t relish these life qualities at any age?

For many, it’s also an issue of you making the difference and becoming part of the solution. How you prepare, manage and organize the visit is key. With this type of thinking you can make the most of the visit, and believe it or not, make the most of and organize your doctor as well.

If you are prepared to relate precisely what you are feeling and how you are doing, it elicits both attention and interest from your physician.

Manage, Organize and Prepare for Visits

You should come to your doctor’s appointment ready to describe and quantify the following:

  • Note any changes in your condition – when, how and how severe, as well as anything you did for it to modify or ameliorate it
  • Note any changes in your response to the medications your doctor has prescribed
  • Note any new signs or symptoms
  • Note any changes in your activities and the results

Remember to Exchange Information

Your appointment must not be a haphazard event. Prepare by writing a list short and to the point for each of these. Leave space beneath each for your doctor’s answers and suggestions.

Additionally, be sure to:

  1. Always bear in mind it takes two to tango, as the saying goes. A white coat doesn’t disable the communication or importance of your full presence and understanding. A simple “could you repeat, or explain” if you don’t get something, is not an imposition – as a matter of fact, it asks for recurrence or mistreatment, neither of which your doctor wants.
  2. Be sure your doctor answers in “patient language.” If he’s using medicalese, and you don’t get it, in effect it hasn’t happened.
  3. Deal with each category, and ask until you fully understand the answer and the solution.
  4. Most importantly, write down the suggestions the doctor is giving you.
  5. Upon your next visit to his office, refer to this list, noting whether his solutions have been helpful, so-so or ineffective.

Preventive Care Tips for Seniors

On concluding your visit, be sure you understand what your doctor has recommended. Understand both the effects desired and any major side effects. Remember:

  1. After the call with your doctor, write down the essentials like change of medication or activities on your visit sheet.
  2. If what he has suggested is not possible or even probable for you to do, let him know so that he can come up with a modification that makes it achievable.
  3. If it’s something that requires a trial and report, be sure you establish when it’s best to talk to him. (For most doctors if it’s an emergency, he will respond even in the middle of seeing patients.) But, be sure that you are calling about something that needs immediate attention. I always told my patients that at the end of my day, I would be available to answer all questions, even the repetitive or slightly inane.
  4. Keep a notebook of all of your visits and the significance of each. One sheet (dated of course), can serve as your working “visit sheet.” The next page is for your reactions to what was proposed.

The bottom line is whenever you visit your doctor, it is important to take responsibility for your health and become part of the solution, and to maximize and organize your visit. With this approach you will find that your old one-way street has turned into a bright open highway for health – yours!

About the Author

M.E. Hecht, M.D., is a published author, freelance writer and Orthopedic Surgeon. Her published books and articles have been written for Vogue Magazine, Sunrise River Press, The Wall Street JournalAmerican Medical NewsMedical TribuneNations Business and others. She is also author of “A Practical Guide to Hip Surgery” and “The Slip and Fall Prevention Handbook, You Make the Difference” – both books are available online at Amazon.

Reprinted from A Place for Mom.