How to Prepare for a Doctor’s Appointment

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Whether it’s your first time seeing a new doctor or you’ve been seeing the same doctor for years, going to your appointment with a game plan can help you make the most of your time there. You and your doctor will be able to discuss everything you need to know with the tips in this article.

photo taken by National Cancer Institute above Unplug

Make a list of your concerns and prioritize them

Write the topics you want to discuss. For example, would you like to discuss a recent symptom with your primary care physician? Do you want the flu shot? Are you worried about how treatment will affect your daily activities? If you want to discuss more than a few different topics, you should list them in order of importance and start with the topic at the top of the list. It’s best not to wait until the end of the appointment to discuss the things that really bother you at the moment. Get started on this now! If you have a specific health condition, refer to trusted websites such as can assist you in identifying potential problems.

Bring information to the doctor with you

Some health professionals recommend carrying all your medicines, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs and supplements, in a single bag at all times. There are those who recommend keeping a diary, in which you record everything you consume and how much. You should also bring your insurance card, the name and phone number of any other doctors you see, and your medical records if the doctor doesn’t already have one.

Consider bringing a family member or friend with you

Sometimes it helps to go with a family members or close friends. Tell your relatives or friends in advance what you would like to receive after your visit. If you forget what you were going to tell the doctor, your friend can remind you. She or he can write down what the doctor said and help you remember it.

Don’t let your partner have too much power. You and the doctor are the only ones there. You may want some alone time with your doctor to talk about private things. During or immediately after a physical exam, if you and your doctor are alone, this could be good time to talk about personal matters. Or, you can ask a friend or family member to wait in the waiting room with you for part of your appointment. For best results, talk to your partner in advance about how they can help you the most.

Stay in touch with your doctor

Tell your doctor what’s going on since you last saw them. Tell your doctor right away if you have been to the emergency room or seen a specialist. Tell them about any changes in your appetite, weight, sleep, or energy levels. Tell your doctor if any medicines you take have changed or if they make you feel different. Use these spreadsheets to keep track of what you want to ask your doctor and what information you want to share.

Make sure you can watch and listen as much as possible

Many people over 60 wear glasses or need hearing aids. Don’t forget to bring your glasses to the ophthalmologist. If you have a hearing aid, wear it and make sure it’s working properly. Tell your doctor and staff if you cannot see or hear well. For example, you might say, “It’s hard for me to understand all of what you’re saying because of my hearing. It really helps if you speak slowly and look at me as you talk.”

Ask for an interpreter if you need help

If the doctor you have selected or been sent to does not speak your language, ask the doctor’s office to send an interpreter. Although some English-speaking doctors know basic medical terms in Spanish or other languages, you may feel more comfortable speaking in your own language, especially when it comes to Sensitive topics such as sex or depression. Call your doctor’s office ahead of time to make sure an interpreter is available.

Always tell your doctor, interpreter, or staff member if you do not understand your doctor’s diagnosis or instructions. Don’t let the fact that you don’t speak the language keep you from asking questions or expressing your concerns.

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