1. KNOW WHAT YOU WANT FROM YOUR TIME WITH THE DOCTOR
Make a prioritized list of your concerns and questions, with the most important ones at the top. Remember your doctor has a list of items he or she believes is important too. Meet in the middle and understand you may need another visit to cover all the items on both lists.
2. KEEP A FILE OF YOUR OWN MEDICAL HISTORY
Ask for copies of your records to keep. Make sure everything is correct. Never assume any information is in your chart. Ask questions about items that you don’t understand. Doctors and hospitals don’t always talk to each other. Plan to be the one to communicate all information about your health to all of your care providers.
3. KNOW YOUR MEDICATIONS BY NAME
Carry an up-to-date list of all of your medications including the dose, frequency and reason for use. This list should include any vitamins, supplements, over-thecounter drugs, topical agents, eye drops, inhalers and any herbal products you may be taking. Tell your doctor about any drug allergies or reactions you may have had.
4. TELL YOUR STORY
Make sure to tell your doctor when the symptoms started, what body parts the symptoms are affecting, what has made the symptoms stronger or weaker, what treatments you have tried, what you are worried about, and what are you willing to do to treat these symptoms.
5. BRING AN ADVOCATE WITH YOU TO THE APPOINTMENT
An advocate is someone who knows all of your medical and personal history. Share your questions and concerns before the visit with your advocate so he or she can make sure all of the issues are addressed. Your advocate should also be willing to ask questions and take notes if there is something he or she doesn’t understand.
6. DON’T BE AFRAID — DO BE HONEST
Don’t be afraid to speak up if something doesn’t seem right. Remember, you know your body better than anyone, but your doctor can’t help you if you are not completely honest. You must leave feelings of embarrassment outside the office. Sometimes, false information can lead to a wrong diagnosis and treatment.
7. ALWAYS ASK FOR OPTIONS
It never hurts to ask the doctor about other available treatments or the cost difference between options. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or for more details of your diagnosis. Also, it is not an insult to your physician if you ask for a second opinion.
8. KNOW YOUR DOCTOR’S PRACTICE — FIND THE RIGHT FIT
You and your doctor should work like a team. If you don’t feel comfortable with your doctor, switch doctors. Always ask what’s the best way to contact your physician and what issues require a personal visit versus a call or email. Also ask if you can have electronic access to your medical records.
9. MAKE SURE YOUR DOCTOR WASHES HIS OR HER HANDS
Your healthcare provider should wash his or her hands or use an alcohol gel after entering your room. If you notice that a team member has not washed his or her hands or used alcohol gel, don’t be afraid to offer a friendly reminder.
10. GET A RECAP
Before leaving your appointment, ask for a recap. Ask to have the instructions you’re supposed to follow written down. Make sure you call the doctor if the treatment is not working. If your doctor doesn’t hear from you he or she will think everything is fine.