Getting the most out of your doctor’s visit

Making the most out of your time with your doctor includes listening and asking questions.

More and more people are taking an active part in their own health care. You can improve your health and avoid harmful errors by learning to ask questions that give you a better understanding about disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment and recovery. Michigan State University Extension delivers research based and relevant information to help you make the best decisions about your own health and wellbeing. MSU Extension experts recommend the following to help you get the most out of your time with your health care provider.

Doctors seem to have less and less time to spend with patients. It is important to have a list of current medications, symptoms and other questions you may have. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recommends the following helpful things you can do during your doctor’s visit:

  • Take notes or have someone come with you to take notes.
  • If possible, ask for printed material on diagnosis, treatment and medications you and your doctor talk about.
  • Bring up problems or concerns you may have about current treatment plans. Let your doctor know if what you are doing now isn’t helping. Ask for alternative treatment options.
  • If you don’t understand what your doctor is saying, ask them to repeat it until you do understand. Ask them to draw a picture if that will help you understand.
  • If you are getting medical tests, make sure you know what they are for. Ask when and how you will get the results. For example, in a week or two weeks and by mail or phone call. If possible, ask for a printed copy of medical test results. Tip: Check to see if your medical insurance requires a pre-authorization that must be completed by your doctor prior to a medical test(s). This could save you a great deal of money.
  • Be sure to share information about how you feel both physically and emotionally. Both of those can help your doctor figure out the best treatments for you.
  • Ask your doctor what lifestyle changes you can make to improve your health. Ask for informational brochures or community resources to help you learn ways to make improvements.

Things you should know and write down before you leave your doctor’s appointment:

  • What is your blood pressure?
  • What is your weight and BMI?
  • If you are diabetic – what is your A1C?

Before you leave be sure you make any follow-up appointments that are suggested. Know where to call if you have questions after hours, and where to go if you need to see someone in between scheduled visits, such as a recommended urgent care or emergency room.

One way to get high quality health care is to be your own best advocate. Know what you need to ask, be honest about your symptoms, listen and write things down, and if you don’t understand, keep asking. Get information, give information and take information home.

For more information on making sure you receive the best health care quality, read Preparing for your doctor’s appointment and What to do after a doctor’s visit.

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