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:
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."
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.
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."
After each visit, be sure you know:
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.
Communities Magazine, winter 2011
Bergeson, MD, medical director of quality, Allina Health Shoreview