Being prepared and asking questions may assist in the overall care you receive at your doctor’s appointment. Taking control of your medical care by finding your voice and advocating for your health will help you to feel more involved in your health care decisions.
Well before your appointment, get in the practice of writing down questions you wish to address with your doctor. A journal or binder can be used to keep track of these appointments. Sometimes it is helpful to have one binder for all medical professionals so that you can review notes from all appointments. Dividers or clips can help organize one doctor or specialist from the next. If questions come up for your primary care while you are visiting with the neurologist, you can add them to the section for the primary care.
Before the appointment, prioritize the questions that are more important at that time. Often appointment time is limited, so by prioritizing the questions, you will assure that what is most important to you at that time is what gets addressed.
It can be a challenge to manage the patient-doctor relationship, especially if your doctor is not used to you asking questions. You certainly do not want to come across as aggressive by demanding the doctor answer questions. Before the appointment, make the doctor aware that you would like to discuss some concerns. By being upfront with the doctor, he or she can make sure there is enough time. Some doctors may prefer to follow-up and discuss questions through a phone call or e-mail.
Asking questions is important but so is making sure you hear and understand the answers you get. Taking notes during an appointment can help to clarify things after you have left the office. Having a care partner or family member at the appointment may also help in remembering some of the details of what you heard. If writing is a challenge, perhaps try using a voice recorder (with the doctor’s permission) to help re-play what was said during the appointment.
If you are having trouble understanding or are confused, ask your doctor to explain again. Ending your appointments with a summary can help to ensure that the doctor hears that you have understood the directions or information provided to you.
If there is something you are not sure about, ask for more information. Many doctors’ offices provide brochures, or educational materials that can describe a treatment or symptom. If the office does not provide these things, ask where you may find them. Perhaps you can reach out to one of the MS organizations to learn more about a particular treatment or symptom, or ask for information to be mailed to you.
By taking a more active role in your health care planning and decisions, you may feel more positive about the control you have over the disease.
How do you plan for your trip to the doctor or specialist?