6 Tips to Make Your Doctor's Appointment More Productive
Taking an active role in your treatment is essential to receiving the care you need and deserve. Julie Silver, M.D., Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School and author of What Helped Me Get Through: Cancer Survivors Share Wisdom and Hope and After Cancer Treatment: Heal Faster, Stronger, Better weighs in on how you can guarantee a quality doctor's visit every time you enter the office.
1. Be upfront about what your concerns are. The first thing your physician will want to know is your chief complaint, or why you're coming to the doctor. However, that's not all you should communicate.
"It's great to state, not only the main reason why you're there, but any other concerns you may have at the start of the appointment. This way, as the doctor is going through and analyzing information, [she's] taking a comprehensive look at your concerns, which will ultimately lead her to a more complete diagnosis," says Silver. It's a great idea to have someone come along on the appointment with you. But if you're going solo, consider bringing along a tape recorder so you don't miss key information.
2. Consider how doctors think. "One of the things I think is really helpful is to understand how doctors think," she says. "Doctors are taught to write medical notes in a very specific way." Some may misinterpret this as insensitivity to the information the patient is providing; however, this is not the case.
So, it's also essential to remember the physician's role, says Silver. "In a fifteen minute office visit, what you want is great medical advice from someone you trust, but that does not necessarily mean you're getting a lot of emotional support."
3. Beware of the Internet. While the Internet is a wonderful tool to access information, for many patients it can be a burden and a source of anxiety.
"The Internet is fantastic in terms of finding information, but it's also a really scary place," says Silver. "I have many patients who are far more frightened than they need to be because they read different things on the Internet."
If you have a health concern, she advises, instead of turning to the Internet, get consultation from a trusted health professional. They will guide you to the right diagnosis and treatment options as well as provide you with the peace of mind you're seeking.
4. Report any medications or supplements you're taking. During your visit, it's common for doctors to inquire about any prescribed medications you may be taking; however, many patients neglect to inform their physician about supplements for fear she may recommend to stop taking it, she says. Yet, it's crucial to disclose this information.
"There are often drug-herb interactions," Silver warns. "What can result is that the drug [the patient] is taking becomes less effective. For instance, if you're taking blood pressure medication, taking the wrong kind of supplement could possibly make you more prone to having a stroke."
If you are taking supplements, don't assume that they're safe. "Let your doctor know what you're taking and allow her [to] weigh in if there might be a drug-herb interaction or some other problem," Silver says.
5. Be honest about personal preferences. Just like there are different possibilities for diagnosis, there are different possibilities for testing and treatment. Make sure you're upfront about any preferences you may have concerning your care.
"It's important for the patient to know what the options are and then decide what to do. As a doctor, I could possibly recommend a variety of treatment options given the patient's circumstances," she says. "However, sometimes there are patient factors."
"For example, if [a patient] is inclined more toward holistic treatments and doesn't want invasive treatments, then it's important to address that with the doctor," she advises. Although the doctor may still suggest surgery, it's good for her to know any personal preferences you have toward treatment so that all needs can be accounted for—physical and otherwise.
6. Get a second opinion. Though you may be concerned about offending your doctor, second opinions can be a useful tool, says Silver. "I always say that really good doctors don't mind if the patient gets a second opinion. It either confirms the first diagnosis, or it offers the patient new information. Either one can be helpful."
For more information about Julie Silver, M.D. visit http://juliesilvermd.com/
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