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Be prepared for your clinic visit

Four things to expect at every doctor visit

Steven Bergeson, MD

Steven Bergeson, MD, sees a young patient at Allina Health Shoreview Clinic.

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A good office visit is a win-win for you and your doctor. It's what you both want, and you play a big part in making it happen. "Research shows that patients who are active in their own care do better," said Steven Bergeson, MD, clinic doctor and medical director for quality at Allina Health.

You should experience these four things every time you see your doctor:

1. The doctor pays attention to your main concern.

Before your visit, write down the main reason you're seeing the doctor, why it's important and what you expect to happen at your appointment. If you have several concerns, make a list of them all.

"Bring up your main concern first so you discuss it before time runs out," said Bergeson. "If you don't get to everything, ask for an appointment to come back."

2. The doctor explains in a way you understand.

If you don't understand, speak up and ask questions. If you do understand, double check.

Repeat what the doctor said in your own words. "Let me see if I understand, doctor. You said …"

Bring a friend or relative to help ask questions and take notes.

3. The doctor reviews your medications.

This means prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines and supplements, like vitamins and herbals. Bring the bottles or an up-to-date list. Check why, when and how to take each medicine, and which side effects to watch for and what to do about them.

"Often, patients are the only ones who know everything they take," said Bonnie Senst, director, Allina Health Pharmacy Services. "Be sure to provide a complete list to all doctors and pharmacies you use. They can check whether any medicines could be causing problems or interacting with one another."

4. The doctor gives you a written plan.

After each visit, be sure you know:

  • what you're supposed to do next
  • how you will know if the plan isn't working
  • who to call if things aren't going as planned
  • when to see the doctor again.

These details can be hard to remember once you leave the exam room, so ask for them in writing. Allina Health offers patients an After-Visit Summary document that includes this information.

Source: Healthy Communities Magazine, winter 2011
Reviewed by: Steven Bergeson, MD, medical director of quality, Allina Health Shoreview Clinic
First Published: 11/15/2011
Last Reviewed: 11/01/2011

Clear communication means good care

The Teach-back Method is a way for health care providers to make sure they are communicating clearly with their patients.

During a clinic visit or hospital stay, your doctor or other caregiver will say, "I want to make sure I communicated clearly. Could you tell me what you heard me say?" Then, if needed, information can be presented another way that's easier for you to understand.

This four-minute video gives an example of what to expect when your health care provider uses the Teach-back Method.

Read video transcript.
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