September 15, 2020/Primary Care

5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Doctor’s Appointment

Simple tips to make your visit more effective

woman at virtual doctor visit

You thought you were prepared. You had several questions ready to ask your healthcare provider during your in-person or virtual visit — but when the time came, you couldn’t think of a single one. (Or maybe you totally forgot what you even talked about with your provider!)

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If this happens to you after your appointments, you’re not alone. But please don’t worry too much about it. There are several things you can do to make your visit more effective and help you get the most out of your one-on-one time with your provider (even when you’re connecting through a screen).

Family medicine specialist Matthew Goldman, MD, shares tips about how you can prepare and feel more at ease during your appointments. Plus, your provider will appreciate that you’ve done your homework and have come for an honest conversation about your health.

  1. Be on time to your appointment. Arrive 15 to 20 minutes early for your appointment (or know how to connect and sign in ahead of time if it’s virtual). Doing so will give you plenty of time to check in and have your vitals monitored (like your height, weight and blood pressure). Arriving early will also help you get as much time with your provider as possible as it will allow them to remain on schedule. Being on time may also help you feel less rushed or stressed about the appointment.
  2. Write your questions down at home. Before your appointment, write down any questions or concerns you want to talk about. It’s easy to forget if you try to rely on your memory alone and sometimes your nerves can make it harder to remember. Writing them down also helps you prioritize your questions so you’ll know what to ask first. Also, bring a list of all of your current medications, including herbs, vitamins and other dietary supplements — those count as medications too.
  3. Share your family health history. Be sure your family health history is up-to-date. Share any changes or new conditions of your family members with your provider. (Hint: go ahead and write down any family health changes with your list of questions.) Your family history is a very important tool for predicting your risk factor for many diseases and conditions.
  4. Try to relax. It’s natural to be nervous or anxious when visiting a healthcare provider, but remember that they are here to try to help you. Try to relax as much as possible (some patients even suffer from white-coat hypertension, which means their blood pressure actually rises higher than normal when they are in the provider’s office). When you arrive or sign on, take a few deep breaths and remember that your provider is on your get-well and stay-well team. Also, remember that arriving early for your appointment will usually allow you to sit quietly for a few moments to center yourself.

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  1. Be honest with your provider. Let’s be honest — many medical conditions are uncomfortable to discuss, especially in-person. But you should not feel embarrassed or ashamed to talk about anything with your provider. (Trust us, providers have heard it all!) Actually, leaving out details or lying to your provider can be bad for your health because it affects your care, so tell your provider everything. Honesty is definitely the best policy — especially for your health.

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