Tips for Your Next Doctor Visit
Talking With Your Healthcare Provider:
What YOU Can Do to Prepare for Your Next Visit!
- Take all of your prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbs with you when you visit the provider. If you're unable to take them with you, take a current list of all the medicines, vitamins, and herbs that you take. Include how much you take.
- Write down the following information to share with your provider:
- Your health history. Include allergies and bad reactions you have had to medicines, and the dates of any surgeries and hospital visits.
- Your current health problems.
- Any questions that you want to ask about your health.
What can you do if you don't understand what your provider is saying?
- Tell the provider you do not understand. Ask more questions to help him or her to understand what you need.
- Tell the provider or if you need someone who speaks your language or who knows sign language.
- Ask a trusted friend or family member to come with you.
Too embarrassed to talk about your health problems?
It may help to write your health problems and symptoms down on paper to give to the provider. A friend or family member may be able to help you talk to the provider about your problem.
Ask about any new medicines your provider prescribes
- Why do you need a new medicine?
- How will it help you?
- What is the name of the medicine?
- Is there a generic medicine you can take?
- Is there a medicine on your insurance company's formulary that will work for you?
- Is the medicine a liquid or a pill?
- What are the directions for taking the medicine? Repeat the directions back to your provider and ask if he or she will write down the directions.
- What are the side effects?
- Can you take it with your current medicines? Should you stop taking any of your current medicines?
- Should you avoid any foods or drinks when you take the medicine?
- Would the medicine still work if you use half of it? As an example, can you cut a pill in half?
- Remind your provider about your allergies and reactions you have had to medicines.
- Tell your provider if you don’t understand any information about the medicine. **Ask your provider to give you an updated printed list of all your medicines.
Why is your provider asking personal questions?
Your provider needs to know about your habits so he or she can recommend the best treatment for you. Tell the provider if you smoke, use recreational drugs, or are sexually active. The provider can only talk to others about your health with your written permission.
Your provider is sending you to another provider. Why?
Your provider may send you to see a specialist. Specialists include heart doctors and doctors who treat cancer. Ask why you are being referred to a specialist.
Tips for the Examination
What can you do if you are uncomfortable being examined by your provider?
- Tell the provider or nurse how you can be made more comfortable. Let them know if you would like a nurse or a family member or friend to stay with you.
- Don't be afraid to ask your provider if they washed their hands. Doctors, nurses and other caregivers usually wash their hands but they can forget. Remind them if you don't see them wash their hands. Hand washing helps prevent infection.
- Make sure your provider wears clean gloves before examining you.
- Ask them to wear clean gloves before giving shots, touching wounds, or examining your mouth or private parts.
If You Need a Lab Test
Here are some questions to ask your provider if you need a lab test:
- Why is this test being done?
- What will it tell you about my health?
- Are there any foods or drinks I should avoid before or after the test?
- Should I take my medicine before the test?
- Is there anything else I need to do to prepare for the test?
- Are there any side effects of the test?
- Will it be painful or uncomfortable?
- Is it unusual to have pain or discomfort?
- Should I have the test done before my next visit to the doctor?
- Will I need someone to take me home after the test?
If You Need Treatment or Surgery
Find out about your condition and treatments for it.
- Ask for written information about your conditions and treatments.
- Ask how and if a treatment will help you. Find out about risks of the treatments.
What can you do to prepare for your treatment?
Ask for copies of your health records from your provider. Your records belong to you. It may take some time to get copies and there may be a cost. You may also access your medical records through your MyChart Account. If you don't have one, it is easy to register using this link.
Questions to ask the doctor if you need to have surgery:
- Are there any vitamins, herbs, or prescription or over the-counter medicines that you should not take before your operation?
- Can you eat or drink before your operation?
- Should you trim your nails and remove any nail polish?
After your doctor’s visit, learn more about your condition
Information can be found at the library, from support groups and reliable web sites. Searching for a web site is easy. Just type your disease or diagnosis into the search box on your computer’s internet search engine.
What if you are not sure about the treatment or operation?
Make an appointment with another doctor to get a second opinion.
How can you find out if the hospital or facility you plan to go to is a good one?
Find out if the organization is accredited by The Joint Commission. Accredited means that the organization follows rules that guide safe and quality patient care. Visit The Joint Commission’s Quality Check Web site.
Talk to your doctor. Ask about the organization's experience taking care of people with your condition. How often do they perform the procedure you need? What special care do they provide to help patients get well?