YOU and Your Doctor Are Your Medical Team

Preparing for a Doctor Visit

Generally, going to the doctor is not most people’s favorite thing to do, but it is part of staying healthy. And since it is a good idea, it is wise to make the best of this activity. The following is a brief summary of what you should do/think about before a doctor’s visit.

As we all know, doctor appointments are never on time, so bring a book, crossword puzzle, magazine, etc., along with you to keep you occupied. Don’t plan your visit when you have something critical to do right afterward. Choosing a day where you have more flexibility will make it all less stressful. You will probably be examined, so wear comfortable and easily removable clothing and shoes.   

Prior to your appointment, make a list of questions, problems, and concerns you want to discuss with your doctor, and list them in order of priority so they can be addressed at the start of the visit. The list will help you stay focused on the things most important to you, and help the visit go more smoothly and greatly reduce the likelihood of forgetting a point. Don’t get sidetracked and put off the things that are really on your mind until the end of your appointment. Bring them up right away.

If this is your first visit with your doctor, let the receptionist know this when you make an appointment. When you first see the doctor tell him or her the purpose of your visit. Let the doctor know if you have a difficult time hearing or seeing, or any other things that might affect your communications. If this is your first visit, I suggest that this information include: (a) your full name, (b) a nickname that you like to be called, if any, (c) your date of birth, (d) any allergies you have to food or medications and what reactions you have had to these items, (e) a brief family medical history, your parents’ medical conditions, (f) your brief medical history including a list of any current and chronic medical/health conditions and when they  started, (g) any previously diagnosed conditions not being treated currently, (h) any surgeries you have had and an approximate date and where. Having this information written down helps to eliminate the stress of your mind and memory while you are talking with the doctor.

Also, it’s essential to bring with you a list of any and all medications you currently are on, OR  bring the  medications themselves with you even if they’re expired or are in empty containers, especially if you’re taking multiple medications. It  helps to know  who prescribed the medication and when and for what reason it was prescribed. Having all medications laid out allows the doctor to see what you are taking, if there are any duplicates, and if any refills are needed. This helps your  doctor clarify your medication regime/routine. Any over-the-counter and/or  homeopathic medications should also be included on the list, or bring the containers themselves with you, as all medications do interact with each other.

The following applies to a visit as a new patient or as an established patient with the doctor. Established means you have an ongoing doctor-patient relationship. If the purpose of the visit is because you’re experiencing a new problem, there are things you should do in preparation for this visit. The more information you give  the doctor helps him or her understand your situation. Again, having things written down helps move along the discussion a bit faster. Make a note or list of any new  problems/changes in your daily life routine you are experiencing since your last doctor visit.  Explain in detail what you are feeling or what has changed.

At www.powerfulpatients.org there is a comprehensive guide for discussing pain with your physician using the following letters: PQRST and O.  Pain = Where  does  it hurt? Quality = What  does it feel like?  Radiation = Does it move anywhere? Scale = How bad is it?  How  much does it affect you? Timing = When did it start? How long does it last? Does it come and go? Is it gradual or sudden in onset? What makes it better or worse? Other = Any other symptoms?

Bring a list of other physicians providing care to you and information about any recent visits you have had with them regarding what kind of care problem    and/or medication changes that might have been made by that physician. If you have had a recent procedure or test, provide information about that, and bring the report if you have it. It would also be a good idea to bring a copy of your COVID vaccination receipts to be included in your medical record at your PCP’s office.

At times, doctor’s  appointments can be overwhelming, especially if you are sick at the time of the visit. Having a trusted person go with you to your appointment is a good idea, as he/she can be another set of ears to hear and  remember what is said. This person  can  also help remind you about questions you wanted to ask during the visit, and also to take notes during the visit, as not everyone’s memory is 100 percent. Explain to that person how you want them to help you.

If the physician prescribes a new medication, be sure you understand its purpose, risks if any, and any side effects, as well as how to take (at what time, how often, with food or no food), and how to store it. If  you   have any  unexpected side effects/symptoms after taking your newly prescribed medication(s), let your doctor know as soon as it occurs.

Before you leave the office visit, briefly review any follow-up instructions to make sure you know what you are supposed to do next, and when you are to see the doctor again.

A bit of a simplistic analogy, but descriptive, think about your family doctor as  being the pilot for your medical care. You can choose to be the copilot who is involved and participates in decisions, or you can be a passenger, just going along for the ride. I think the better option is being the copilot of your own care, as you have a vested interest in what happens to you. Your choice.


September 2022 Issue

El Ojo del Lago – Home Page

For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com


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For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com


Jackie Kellum

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