Most of us hope to get in and out of a doctor's office as fast as you can snap a latex glove, but it's important to take your time to get all the information you need, and to tell your physician about what medicine you're taking. The following are a few tips on how to better prepare for your next trip, as well as a list of the vital questions you need to ask the family doc. Print it out before your next appointment and highlight the questions and tips that apply to you.
Before you go
• Create a list of medications you are taking and the dosages (including prescription and nonprescription such as aspirin, antihistamines and vitamins).
• Write down when your problem started and the symptoms you have been experiencing, including headaches, weight loss, weight gain, pain while swallowing, change in bowel movements, limb weakness or memory problems.
• Be able to describe what type of pain you are having, whether it's dull, throbbing or stabbing.
• Take your temperature ahead of time.
• Think if there have been any recent changes in your life, diet, appetite, stress, mood, body, libido or alcohol consumption that might contribute to your condition.
• Make an appointment or find out what your doctor's office hours are.
• Investigate whether your doctor works out of more than one office.
• Record the phone number to call in case of an after-hours emergency.
• Find out who to speak with if the doctor isn't available.
• Take a look around to see if there's anyone else in your home having the same problem.
• If you've had this problem before, think back to what you did for it then.
• Find out of there is a family history of what you are experiencing.
What to ask your doctor
• State your main problem.
• Describe your symptoms and if you've had these symptoms or problems in the past.
• While you're there, don't be afraid to ask your doctor to explain any medical terms you don't understand.
• Do I need a follow-up appointment?
• How long will my recovery take?
• How will this condition affect me in the future?
• Do I need to make any dietary or lifestyle changes?
• Is there somewhere I can find more information on this problem?
• Should I get a second opinion? Is there anyone you'd recommend I get a second opinion from?
• If my symptoms worsen, what can I do on my own?
• Could there be more than one condition causing my problem?
• Why do I need this particular medication?
• Is there a generic equivalent to this drug?
• How long will I have to take this medication?
• What are the risks associated with this drug?
• Are there any side-effects if I forget to take it?
• Are there any alternatives?
• How do I take this medication properly?
• Is there anything I should avoid while taking this drug, such as certain foods or activities?
• How will this new drug react with my current medication?
• What should I do if the medication isn't working?
• Are there any non-drug measures that might work instead?
Tests and treatments:
• Can you explain this treatment or test?
• How urgent is this test or treatment?
• Will my condition change if I have to wait for test results or treatment?
• What happens if I don't have this test or treatment?
• How safe are these tests or treatments?
• Is there anything I need to do to prepare for the tests?
• Will I be called with the test results or will I have to call?
• When can I expect to start treatment?
• If I get this test or treatment somewhere else, what should I know?
• Will I have to cover the costs of any of these tests or treatments out of my own pocket?
Specialists and surgery:
• Why do I need to see a specialist?
• How soon should I see this specialist?
• Why have you referred me to this particular specialist?
• Is there a specialist who can perform the same surgery sooner?
• What are my options with surgery? Are there different procedures or just one?
• What are the benefits and risks of this surgery?
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