Ask questions from a list. Don’t be afraid to clarify. Take notes.
The majority of Americans are time-crunched and work-consumed. So when a doctor’s appointment has to be squeezed into a hectic schedule, it is no small task — especially if it is with a new health-care professional.
Dr. Mayrene Hernandez of UnitedHealthCare Florida offers patients advice to maximize time with a physician:
— Make sure to have necessary insurance cards, previous tests and records (if necessary) and any X-rays (if needed).
— Communicate clearly new or changing symptoms, family history of diseases or conditions, trips taken (especially out of the country), and recent tests and/or procedures.
— Add to a smartphone or jot down on a piece of paper a list of issues to discuss, as well as current medications and supplements. For prescriptions, include date when started and expected to finish and dosage.
— Ask questions on the list. Don’t be afraid to clarify. Take notes. Ask for an exact date or a time window when a diagnosis, test or lab results, or referrals might be available.
— Ask a doctor about preventive measures. Hernandez says one of the most important parts of doctor visits is creating a care plan to keep a person healthy before any signs of illness begin. She points to screenings, vaccinations and regular wellness checkups as pieces of the plan.
The National Institute on Aging also stresses that patients concerned with a health issue should not procrastinate. That cyst may be pea-size one day and golf-ball-size with infection and inflammation a few weeks later if not tended to. If the appointment is more than a routine checkup, nia.nih.gov recommends patients bring along a friend or family member to help remember details about the visit.
And, patients who do not speak English well or at all should request in advance an interpreter, instead of taking time to determine if one can be obtained during the visit.