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Talking to a doctor

How well patients and doctors talk to each other is one of the most important parts of getting good health care. Unfortunately, talking to a doctor isn’t always easy. In the past, the doctor typically took the lead and the patient followed. Today, a good patient-doctor relationship is a partnership. The patient and doctor can work as a team.

Creating a basic plan before going to the doctor can help make the most of a visit. The tips in this blog article will make it easier to cover everything needing to be discussed.

Make a list of symptoms

Talking about your health means sharing information about how you feel. Sometimes it can be hard to remember everything during the doctor visit. Making a list of symptoms before the visit can keep a patient from forgetting anything to tell the doctor.

Symptoms can be physical, such as pain, fever, a lump or bump, unexplained weight gain or loss, change in energy level, or having a hard time sleeping. Symptoms can also involve thoughts and feelings. For example, it’s important for the doctor to know if the patient is often confused or feels sad a lot.

What to include

In the list of symptoms, be specific. It should include:

  • what the symptom is
  • hen it started
  • what time of day it happens and how long it lasts
  • how often it happens
  • anything that makes it worse or better
  • anything it prevents the patient from doing

List your medications

The doctor also needs to know about all the medications you take. Medications include:

  • prescription drugs
  • over-the-counter (non-prescription) drugs
  • vitamins, herbal remedies or supplements
  • laxatives
  • eye drops

Sometimes doctors ask a patient to bring all his or her medications in a bag to the appointment. Other times, doctors suggest bringing just a list of all your medications.

Note dosages, frequency, and side-effects

If making a list of the medications you take, do not forget to write down how much you take and how often you take it. Make sure to tell the doctor if a dose has changed or if any new medications have been added since the last visit.

Write down or bring all your medications even if you think that one or some of them are not important. The doctor needs to know this because sometimes medicines can cause problems when taken together. Also, sometimes a medicine taken for one health problem, like a headache, can cause another health problem to get worse. Write down any medication allergies and any bad side effects that have been experienced with the medications taken. Also, write down which medications that have worked the best.

To provide the best care, a doctor must understand the patient as a person and know what that person’s life is like.

Assistive devices

Be sure to let the doctor know if any assistive devices are used to help with daily activities. Assistive devices can help a patient to see, hear, stand, reach, balance, grasp items, go up or down stairs, and/or move around. Devices used by older adults might include canes, walkers, scooters, hearing aids, reachers, grab bars, and stair lifts.

Everyday habits

The doctor will need to know where the patient lives, if the patient drives and how he or she gets around, what the patient eats, what he or she eats, how well the patients sleeps, what is done each day and what activities are enjoyed, what the patient’s sex life is like, and if the patient smokes or drinks alcohol.

Be open and honest. It will help your doctor to better understand the patient’s medical conditions and figure out the best treatment choices.

Any life changes?

Sometimes things happen in life that are sad or stressful. The doctor needs to know about any life changes that have occurred since the last visit because they can affect a person’s health. Examples of life changes are divorce, death of a loved one, or a change in address.

The list should include all life changes but does not need to go into detail. It can be short like “had to sell home and move in with daughter.”

Any other medical encounters?

Also, write down and tell the doctor if the patient had to go to the emergency room, stay in the hospital, or see a different doctor (such as a specialist), since the last visit. It might be helpful to bring that doctor’s contact information.

What else to bring?

Bring your insurance cards, names and phone numbers of your other doctors, and the phone number of the pharmacy you use. Also, bring your medical records if your doctor does not have them.

Information courtesy of National Library of Medicine (NLM)

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