Making the Most of Your Doctors’ Visits

Playing an active role in your health

Updated on: January 7, 2019

Originally posted on: September 21, 2015
Ms. Nowak specializes in using advanced analytics, data science, predictive modeling, machine learning, and population health analytics to improve health outcomes. Topics include choosing the plan that’s best for you and comparing the coverage offered by plans in your area.

A visit to the doctor can sometimes mean spending more time in the waiting room than talking with your doctor. We all know how busy doctors are, often leaving little time at the end of an exam for questions about your condition, the medications you are taking or new prescriptions. Playing an active role in your health by being prepared for your visit can make it easier to ask the right questions about your diagnosis and medications. Here are some tips to help make the most of each visit.

  • List your medications. Keep a complete list of the medications you are currently taking in your wallet and keep it up to date. Your Medicare Part D plan may also offer a mobile app to help you keep track of your medications. Whichever method you use, you should also include any over-the-counter medications you are taking, such as vitamins and other dietary supplements.
  • Make sure your lab or test results are in before your visit. If you see multiple doctors and are referred to another doctor for additional testing, don’t assume that your doctors communicate with each other. Calling ahead to make sure your medical documents have been received will make your appointment run more smoothly. Even in the case of a referral, the doctors may not have spoken directly, so make sure the office has received all relevant scan and lab results.
  • List your questions. A week before your appointment, think about the questions you want to ask, write them down and bring them with you to the appointment. Prioritize them and save the basic questions for the nursing or office staff. It’s common to get distracted and forget the questions you want to ask. Having a list will make it much easier.
  • Take notes. Make sure to bring a pad and pen with you to write down what the doctor says, and don’t be afraid to ask him/her to explain information you don’t understand it. If possible, bring someone with you, which is especially important if you have trouble understanding your doctor, either due to a language barrier or because you may get confused.
  • Be honest with your doctors. It’s easy to downplay your problem or omit important details and symptoms when talking to your doctor. Even if you think some information may not be needed (like having difficulty swallowing pills or the cost of the medication), it’s important to be honest and share relevant details with your doctor to get the best care and treatment.

Taking an active approach to your health will make a difference when you see your doctor. You may not be able to extend the length of your visit, but you can make the most of the time you have by being prepared.