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6 Ways to Make Sure You Get The Most Out Of Your Doctor’s Visit

Got an important appointment coming up with a consultant/doctor? Going to the pharmacy to collect your medicines? Whenever you go to see a healthcare professional, it is an opportunity for you to learn more about your health, or the health of someone you care about. Why is it then, that we often walk away and remember something we wanted to ask them after we have left? You should leave a conversation with a healthcare professional, whether it is a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, dentist… feeling more enlightened than before your conversation, and it is partly your responsibility to make sure that you do! Here’s how you can play your part in making sure you get the most out of your conversation/ consultation.

How do you prepare for a doctor’s visit?

1. You are the patient, so YOU set the agenda about what you want to talk about. Of course there will be times when the doctor/nurse will want to discuss blood test results etc, but don’t let this put you off asking another question, whether it is related to the blood tests etc or not. The healthcare professional will find it really hard to treat/advise on a concern that you haven’t addressed, so don’t be afraid to discuss your concerns. Doctors/pharmacists/nurses etc, are always busy, but trust me, they want to know as early as possible in the consultation about your other concerns, rather than just disclosing them at the end. Even if you don’t think a new concern is related to other conditions you may have, there might be a connection, so it’s best if they know early on, so they can give the best advice. Have the confidence to speak up, and don't feel embarrassed - they have heard it all before!

2. Keep a symptom diary. For example, if you have been feeling constipated, keep a log of each time you go to the bathroom, so that when you do see your doctor /consultant, you can tell them how often you have been going, as well as log any other symptoms, like abdominal pain etc. This will give the doctor a clearer picture of just how severe your symptoms are, and this will make sure they treat it the best way they possibly can. You may even start to see some connections yourself. In sticking with this example, if you write out a daily symptom piece you might find a cause all by yourself! See picture below to see how a connection between food/fluid intake and constipation could be spotted all by yourself by keeping a simple diary! And if you can’t spot a connection – your doctor might, so do it anyway.

Diary of symptoms of constipation/medical diary
This is an example of a symptom diary I created - it shows someone who is constipated and records their symptoms, their activity levels, and fluid intake that day, because they heard that all of these were important for bowel movement.Even if you're not sure what might be related to your symptoms - record what you did that day too briefly, especially if you did anything different to usual..

3. Write a list of things you would like to talk about. It doesn’t have to be every single itch/pain you’ve had since you last saw them – just discuss and prioritise your main concerns, and don’t be afraid to bring them up. No doctor will be offended by a patient being organised and bringing a little list, they’ll appreciate the organisation and the efficiency this will allow them to have as you work through the short list together.

screenshot of notes app on phone detailing doctor's visit notes
Short list on phone of health concerns - this is super quick and easy todo and you can write them as you think of them- so that you don't forget at your next doctor's visit

4. Bring a notebook in with you! Write down any key points so that you do not forget them.

5. Better yet, if it is an important appointment with a consultant you have been waiting a long time to see, for example, then bring a close companion! Sometimes it can be overwhelming being the patient, and they may say one off-putting thing that means you focus on that, and not the rest of what they say. Having a buddy who is not the patient means, they will have a clearer focus, and you will be more likely to walk away with the knowledge the consultant imparted, and with a better understanding of your condition and your treatment.

6. Find a doctor and a pharmacist that you trust and stick with them.

The benefits of having the same doctor all the time, is that you don’t feel as though you’re starting from scratch each time you have a visit, and you don’t have to waste precious consultation time explaining previous medical history etc. Also, you get to build up a relationship of trust and familiarity, and this ensures you get the best care, and get the most out of your visits.

Pretty girl in front of blue background with sunshine. Greystones,ireland.
Soon I will be a pharmacist that people know, trust and come back to month after month. The continuity of care you receive when you go to the same doctor/pharmacist means you know and trust what your doctor prescribes, and what your pharmacist dispenses, and recommends. (P.S.This picture was taken in Greystones, Ireland!)

The benefits of sticking with the same pharmacy/pharmacist all the time, is that they will know your regular medications, and will notice any switch in medication, and will talk it through with you. They will also be able to check if any other over the counter medications or herbal supplements you might want to buy there, interact with your current medications. Also, if you have any symptoms, they may spot a connection between your symptoms and your medication etc. It is definitely in the best interests of your health to be consistent with your doctor, and your pharmacist, where possible, and leaves little room for you or the doctor/pharmacist to be confused about your treatment/condition.

The doctor’s time is precious – and so is yours! As is the money you pay to visit. Sometimes I find that I have been so afraid to "waste" the doctors time with my concerns - and let them focus on just one, even though I might have . more than one. This is certainly not a waste of time - it's why you visit, and it is a healthcare professional's job to help and advise you when you consult with them. Make sure you get the most from your visit by showing up prepared – with your list of queries, and a way of remembering the advice you receive. They will appreciate a patient who wants to know more and get better! So do not be afraid - what you have to say matters, and is in the best interest of your care.

Lots of love,


(dailydoseofginger) xx

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