By taking the time to prepare for health care visits, we can get the most out of our time spent with health care providers and leave the office feeling more comfortable, confident and satisfied with the visit.
We’ve probably all done it at some time or another. We’ve walked out of a health care appointment and realized that we forgot to ask our provider a particular question or didn’t understand the diagnosis of our condition. Or we get to the appointment, feel too rushed and walk out feeling unsatisfied with the experience. This type of thing happens to all of us – especially when we aren’t prepared for our appointments.
By taking the time to prepare for our health care visits, we can get the most out of our time spent with health care providers and leave the office feeling more comfortable, confident and satisfied with the visit.
Whether you’re starting with a new provider or just want to get the most out of your time with your existing health care team, check out these tips on how to be prepared.
Tips for Preparing for Your Health Care Visits
- Make a list of things you want to discuss. It’s hard to remember everything you want to bring up with the provider once the appointment gets rolling, so write down what you want to talk about in advance of your appointment. Do you have a new symptom you want to discuss? Are you concerned about a particular medication you’re taking? Do you want to make a plan for this year’s immunizations? Write it all down before you go.
- Learn your family history. According to MedlinePlus, it’s helpful for health care providers to know what diseases or conditions are common in your family, so they can determine if you’re at increased risk. However, it can be difficult to recall it all in the middle of a visit. Take some time beforehand to check with your parents and/or relatives to see if there’s any family condition you should know about. For example, do the women in your family have a history of breast or gynecological cancers? Has anyone suffered from heart disease? This kind of information will help your provider make the best recommendations for your health care.
- Use the time before you go to record important information. If you’re going to your health care provider because something’s been going on with you medically, they’ll want to hear about it. For example, it can be hard to remember on the spot when a certain symptom first started, whether it’s getting worse or if there’s something triggering it. Recording these details ahead of time can help your provider reach a diagnosis.
- Don’t go empty-handed. To get the most out of your visit, consider bringing the following things:
- Insurance information and ID – This is usually required when you check in, so have it ready to go and save time.
- Medical history –If you’re starting with a new provider, it’s especially important to have a description of your health for the past several years.
- Paper and pen – Something may come up that you’ll want to jot down during the visit.
- A list of all your current medications –Include how often you take each prescribed drug or over-the-counter supplements, whether you have any side effects or if you have any questions.
- Aids – If you wear glasses or hearing aids, make sure you take them with you so you’re able to make the most of the time you have.
- Bring a family member or a friend. Consider asking a family member or a close friend to come with you to your appointments. They can help you by writing down important information your provider gives you, remembering your questions for you, and supporting you throughout the visit.
- Be open and honest. High-quality, personalized health care depends on an open and honest relationship between you and your provider. Be open and communicate about the symptoms you’re experiencing, even if they seem embarrassing. In addition, be honest about things you’re doing that may put your health at risk, such as poor eating habits, any drug use, excessive alcohol use, or smoking, for example. This can help your provider make informed and helpful decisions. And remember, your health care visits are confidential.
- Call ahead. If you need any accommodations to make the most of your appointment, call ahead to make any requests you need. For example, if you’re worried about a language barrier, you can ask the office for an interpreter.
- Don’t leave confused. While health care providers are trained professionals, sometimes it’s difficult understand all the terms they use. If you’re confused, it’s OK to ask questions. You can ask for a different explanation or a picture to help you visualize what they’re saying, or ask for your provider to repeat the information. Ask for a summarization of your visit that includes everything the provider discussed with you.
- The National Institute on Aging offers several tips for preparing for your health care visits, including Talking With Your Doctor Worksheets like Family Health History, Tracking Your Medications and more.
- The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has resources to help patients become a bigger part of their own health care through articles such as the Ten Questions You Should Know and Be More Engaged in Your Healthcare.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has several tools within MyHealtheVet to help you make the most of your health care visits.
The time you spend with your health care providers is valuable. Be sure to make the most of it by being prepared for every visit!