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Posted on / Dr. Zoë McMillen

5 Steps to Optimize Your Doctors' Visit

At LifeScape you have us! You have physicians dedicated to your health and who can take the time needed to address your concerns. Unfortunately, when working with health insurance based specialists, that same privilege is not always possible. The following is meant to help you optimize your appointments with specialists so you can get the most out of your visit.

My top 5 action steps you can take to optimize your next appointment:

1) Create an easy to update digital list of the medications and supplements you are currently taking along with the prescribing doctor’s contact details. Print a copy to take with you to every appointment.

2) Write a list of questions, symptoms or issues you would like to discuss ordered from most important onward. Trust me, taking the extra step to physically write these thoughts down will make all the difference - even doctors do this when they are the patients!

3) During the visit jot down answers or key phrases to help you remember the advice provided. After your appointment, don't hesitate to take an extra few minutes in the waiting room or your car to write down even more thorough notes while the information is still fresh in your mind. Pro tip: for extra important appointments and if possible, bring a family member or friend to help remember what is said and ask questions alongside you.

4) Near the end of your appointment, circle back to questions you don’t feel were adequately addressed or explained and ask the doctor to try explaining it in a different way. As providers, we are often so used to medical jargon in our notes and with between colleagues that we can sometimes forget to explain conditions in an easy to understand way. Of course your LifeScape provider is always happy to help explain these issues after your specialty appointment as well, but may not have the details that the specialists do regarding certain conditions or procedures.

5) After your appointment, ask the office to send the doctor’s notes to your primary care physician as well as any other providers who should be notified.

Some additional tips to make the most out of your appointment:

When available, complete any intake paperwork ahead of time. This can increase the likelihood that your doctor has a chance to familiarize themself with your medical history BEFORE your appointment.  

It may sound obvious, but get to your appointment on time! It adds additional stress to you, the doctor and staff when you're running late and you risk the possibility of the office having to reschedule your appointment. If you do find yourself running late, be sure to call the office as soon as possible to explain and mitigate as much of the stress as possible.

Start your visit with a brief summary of what has happened in the interim since your last visit or what symptoms or concerns have lead you to them.

If you get the feeling the doctor is in a rush, pull out your discussion list. Together you may need to choose which items to address. Realize you may need an additional appointment to discuss multiple complex issues.

When discussing with your doctor, be honest about what you are experiencing and don’t be embarrassed. Trust me when I tell you that they have seen and heard it all!

If you are being prescribed a new medication, ask about common side effects, what to expect, and exactly how to take it. This keeps you informed and able to spot if an error were to occur with the way your prescription is submitted to the pharmacy.

Similarly, if you are being advised to undergo a procedure or surgery, ask about the alternatives, what the risks are, how long recovery usually takes, what is the usual pain experienced by other patients. I also recommend preparing your body for surgery using Dr. Wilder’s book and program.

Lastly, be sure to ask if/when you need to return! So often I see patients not know they were supposed to follow up or get a test completed. If you need to get a test done, ask who will be calling you to schedule it, or if you need to call.

These small tips and action items all add up to make a more satisfying and helpful doctor visit for you.

 

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