Today, I feel the need to share with you all some information that just about anyone with a pulse can find helpful. For once, we aren’t talking about prevention or treatment of illness; but instead, we’re tackling the middle ground. What do you do when you or the person you are caring for gets sick, and how can you get the most out of your time with a physician?
1) Don’t be afraid to come off like a complete dork. Prior research and notepads are 100 percent acceptable. When I went to doctor’s appointments as a child, particularly when it was with a specialist of some sort, my dad would always bring along a notepad if he happened to accompany me on the visit. At first, I thought it was completely unnecessary and made him seem a little over-prepared. As it would turn out, there is no such thing as being over-prepared when it comes to your health and you will most likely forget more than half of what your doctor said to you if you don’t take the time to put it in writing. You might also find this helpful if you choose to follow up with another doctor and they ask for details from your other visit. Also asking questions based on information you looked up regarding your diagnosis might inspire a solution, so don't feel like a know-it-all or like you're offending your physician when you ask them.
2) Write down your symptoms, which medications you have been treating them with (if any) as well as what time you last took them. This is something I wish I had started doing earlier because sometimes a trip to the doctor can get you flustered and you may forget to mention a symptom that could be key to properly diagnosing you. Also, if you’ve ever taken ibuprofen for a fever right before going in for an appointment, you know as well as I do that there was probably no fever for them to record, so they would have needed to know that you had one, what it was, and how you had been treating it. As doctors, their time is precious and it helps to cut to the chase rather than waste half of your appointment guessing at what the problem is when they could probably figure it out with a brief examination and a concise list of symptoms.
3) Piggybacking off of the notepad anecdote, it is so vitally important that you bring in a list of questions you might have. This is especially true if you are given a prescription or need to follow up with some sort of medical procedure. I have to give my mom a shout out for this one because for years she did it for me and inevitably, I would always forget to ask the questions and she would be my safety net. All of you adults out are most likely going by yourselves or have a lot going on that might prevent you from remembering to ask the burning questions you had before you got distracted by the white coat and the stethoscope. So do yourselves a favor on this one, write them down and ask them even if they sound stupid to you. I promise, they won’t think any less of you for being cautious with your health care.
4) Finally, and most importantly, keep a current record or list of what medications you are taking including the name, what you take it for, and when/how frequently you take it. Do the same thing for your medical history and allergies. This is so important because unfortunately, mistakes can definitely happen when reading charts and a misinformed patient does not help the situation. If you can tell your doctor exactly what medications you are on, they can be sure that your prescriptions don’t interact with one another and that your course of treatment will help you, not hurt you. Having your full history on hand with you can also help them address a potentially bigger problem instead of unintentionally writing it off and finding out when it’s too late that you had the same condition that one of your family members might have suffered with.
If you do all of these things now, props to you; you're already a better patient than I am!If you don't, take these words into serious consideration and become the smartest patient you can be!