Take the stress out of preparing to see your healthcare provider

Preparing for a medical visit can be a stressful experience.

Time frames for appointments are limited, and many often leave the doctor’s office and quickly think of questions they forgot to ask or realize they have follow-up concerns regarding the treatment or medications prescribed during their time in the exam room.

March 30 is National Doctor’s Day. Show your provider your appreciation by becoming an active partner in your medical care and learning how to make time with your physician as production possible.

In addition to offering screenings of things such as blood pressure, pulse and weight, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice nurses are available at regular Ask the Nurse clinics throughout the community to help patients set healthy lifestyle goals and prepare for upcoming physician’s visits.

“Preparing for a visit to the doctor can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be,” said VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice Health Promotions Supervisor Kathleen Eagle. “Our nurses are available to help you navigate whatever questions and concerns you might be having about your health and make an action plan so you feel confident going into your appointment.”

Basic advice

When getting ready to visit the doctor, it’s important to write down all your symptoms and a sequence of events that occurred leading to your health concerns. Be concise with your information. Also make sure to bring your current insurance card and co-pay to the visit, as well as an up-to-date medication list to share with your provider. If you want to ask something specific, ask in a pleasantly assertive way. Don’t wait until the doctor is leaving the room to discuss the real reason you came.

Many patients don’t think to take notes during a visit, but it can be quite helpful, particularly if new medications or courses of treatment are discussed. Don’t be afraid to tell your doctor politely if you feel rushed in conversation. It’s important to recognize the busy schedule physicians must keep while also advocating for the care that you need.

Know what to ask

Much of the responsibility for one’s health lies with the individual. Medical providers can make recommendations, offer treatment options and order tests, but it is critical patients take an active role in their own health. Part of this means being prepared to ask the right questions when you see your doctor.

Ask why the doctor’s recommendations are important, what symptoms you should watch for to report to your provider’s office, and be sure you understand the instructions you’ve been given to follow until you next see your physician.

Know your family history

Family medical histories are important, particularly when it comes to knowing one’s risk for a variety of conditions. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, family history might be one of the strongest influences on a person’s risk for developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other conditions. The more you know about your risk factors, the more help you can be to your physician as they work to recommend the best course of your care.

Information in your family history might suggest to your doctor that you require certain screening tests or more frequents routine screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies. Family history of things such as Alzheimer’s and dementia also helps you to know what signs and symptoms to be on the look out for so you can discuss your changing health conditions with your doctor as soon as possible.

Bring an appointment companion

While it’s important that everyone see their doctor annually, many individuals – in particular senior citizens – may find their visits to be much more frequent.

This schedule can be helpful, but also makes it easier for information to blur from one visit to the next, or for patients to take for granted they’ll be seeing their doctor again soon and lose focus, leading to a misunderstanding of instructions or missed details.

Spouses, children or even friends can be helpful when brought along on a visit. An extra set of ears, someone to take notes for you and someone to help you remember the details of your medical history can be invaluable. In addition, bringing a companion or caregiver along often means you have an advocate with you to help clarify questions or ask questions you may be unsure of asking yourself.