Making the Most of Your Next Visit to the Dr.
There's actually quite a lot you can do to take charge of any medical condition and manage it successfully with your physician. We’ve put together a simple list of ideas to help you take control of your next doctor’s appointment--before, during and after your next visit.
Before You Go
• Knowledge is power so learn everything you can about your condition. Visit the library. Go online for information. Call your health insurance company. Talk to friends and acquaintances. The more you know, the better equipped you'll be to discuss your condition with your doctor and ask about it at your appointment.
• Keep a journal. Does your condition or symptoms have ups and downs? Are some medications losing their effectiveness for you? Keeping track of daily details may help you and your doctor better understand how your body is responding and fine-tune your treatment. It may help you pinpoint any foods, conditions, habits, etc. that affect your condition. Most health conditions have a number of possible treatment options. It may be time for you to try something new.
• Prepare yourself for your appointment. If you have trouble talking about your condition or symptoms, rehearse it a few times before you go. Or recruit a family member or loved one to tag along with you at the appointment. Whether for moral support or a second set of ears, having a loved one nearby can help put you at ease if doctor’s offices make you nervous.
At the Appointment
• Bring in a list of questions so you feel more confident talking with your doctor—and you’ll get the answers and info you need. The bonus: In one review of 33 office-visit studies, researchers found that people who brought checklists got more time with their doctor.
• Once you’re in the exam room, go ahead and give your doctor or nurse your list of questions and concerns and your ongoing diary of symptoms. Make a copy of the list so you’ve got it during the appointment, too. Take notes as your doctor answers your questions and concerns.
Follow-Up to the Appointment
• Be disciplined about taking medications and following through with treatments. Many treatments take days, weeks or even months to become effective. Make your treatments part of your everyday routine like brushing your teeth, fixing dinner or putting on makeup. If your self-care is regular and structured, you'll get the most out of it.
• Locate and join a support group. No matter what health problems you have, someone else has them too, and is dealing with the same fears, feelings, struggles and hopes that you are. The support and common bond of others who truly "know" what you're experiencing can be invaluable. Ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about a support group near you. Look up Social Services in the yellow pages and call them. Call the main number of your local hospital and ask for 'information on support groups'. Perform a search on the Internet. The information, friendship and perspective you receive from a support group may be as important and effective as any treatment a doctor can give.
• Consider general lifestyle improvements in addition to prescribed treatments. If you are overweight and out of shape, have poor nutrition habits, smoke, have too much stress in your life or get too little sleep, make some tweaks where you can. Your body needs to work harder to fight a chronic health condition of any kind. Start with small improvements, like adjusting your diet. There are many resources available to help you understand how much of which foods you should be eating. Start with a basic one like www.mypyramid.gov. Join a health club. Talk with a trainer, nutrition specialist, nurse or counselor. Find a friend you can confide in and ask them to help you 'stick with it' and be committed to maintaining your new, healthier habits.
Keep your doctor fully informed as you go along. Doctors are a great help and reference but they're very busy people. Book follow-up appointments, including just a “consult” appointment to talk through any concerns. Be a good patient but a persistent one.