How to Make the Most of a Doctor Visit

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When a doctor knows how to really communicate well with a patient, it can make a big difference in how that patient responds. But communication is a two-way process. Listening as well as speaking to one another is something both doctor and patient must work on together. Being honest and open with each other is also important.


What Your Doctor Should Know about You

Aside from a general health history, it is important that your doctor ask certain questions about the following:

•  Dietary habits (Are you a frequent junk-food eater? Are you especially fond of cheesecake, sour cream, or other fatty foods?)

•  Your occupation (Do you work in a high-stress job? Are you exposed to nickel, nuclear power radiation, or other toxic substances?)

•  Sleep habits (Do you frequently awaken before dawn or have problems getting to sleep?)

•  Family problems (Are you currently going through a divorce?)

•  Lifestyle (Do you get any exercise?)

•  Stress (Do you work in a noisy environment?)

•  Health attitude (Are you serious about quitting smoking?)

•  History of family illness (Does heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney problems, or cancer run in your family?)

•  Major life events (Have you recently retired from work?)

•  Living arrangements (Do you live alone?)

Quizzing Your Doctor

Often, patients feel rushed or uneasy during a doctor visit. And when you’re sick, there is a tendency to feel vulnerable and passive. But by heeding these suggestions, you can still make the most of your doctor-patient communications.

•  Repeat back in your own words what the doctor has told you.

•  Use simple phrases like “Do I hear you say that...  ?” or “My understanding of the problem is. . .”

•  Plan ahead of time what you will say to your doctor about your problem. Your observations about a health problem can be invaluable in making a diagnosis.

•  Take notes on what is wrong and what you need to do.

•  If you are confused by medical terms, ask for simple definitions. There is no need to be embarrassed by this.

•  When a medication is prescribed, ask about its possible side effects, its effectiveness, and how long it must be taken.

•  If your doctor discusses surgery, ask about alternatives, risks, and a second opinion.

•  Be frank with the doctor if any part of the office visit is annoying, such as lengthy waiting time or discourteous staff. Be tactful, but honest.

•  Don’t be afraid to voice your fears or apprehensions about what you’ve heard. The doctor may be able to clarify any misconceptions.

•  Discuss any self-care practices you’ve used that have relieved symptoms.

•  Find out the best time for the doctor to receive your phone calls should any questions arise.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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