Top 10 Tips for Making the Most of Your Doctor’s Visit

For most people, going to the doctor isn’t at the top of their list of favorite things to do. However, it is essential to aging well and staying healthy. So, if it’s time to visit your doctor, you may as well maximize the experience!

Each March, the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) celebrate Patient Safety Awareness Month. The theme for 2018 is Safety Culture and Patient Engagement. Being engaged and taking an active role with your doctor can make a difference in your overall health.

This is something I’ve experienced personally. As a medical social worker for many years in various settings, including the hospital, outpatient facilities, the ER, and through in-home care, I’ve seen firsthand how important it is to get involved and get your family members or loved ones involved in your medical care. Below are the top ten tips for making the most of your doctor’s visit, compiled from recommendations by the NPSF and IHI.

  1. SET YOUR GOAL: Know what you want to get out of the visit. Is this going to be a check-up? Is this a “maintenance visit” for an ongoing medical issue? Is there a new symptom or problem that you need to bring up? Do you need to talk about big events or changes in the near future, like end of life care or living arrangements?
  1. KEEP A MEDICAL LOG—AND BRING IT WITH YOU: Keep an accurate, up-to-date list of test results, referrals, hospital admissions, and medical conditions. Include immunizations, allergies, and any current medications or dietary supplements. And take it with you to each appointment.
  1. DON’T GO ALONE: Bring a sibling, spouse, friend, or neighbor—anyone you trust—to go with you, whether it’s the hospital, doctor, or other medical specialist. They can speak up, help you remember instructions, and provide emotional support.
  1. TELL YOUR STORY: Be clear, complete, and accurate when you tell your doctor or nurse about any concerns. Sometimes a nurse or other health professional may ask you questions before you see the doctor. Make sure your doctor hears the same story.
  1. BE REALISTIC ABOUT THE VISIT: In the reality of today’s medical world, you’re only going to get a modest amount of time with the doctor. If you try to discuss 27 concerns in a 10-minute window, there’s no way that any of your concerns can be explored in depth. (Just do the math!) Quality is much more important than quantity when it comes to addressing medical concerns. Pick the two or three most important issues and focus on those. Keep in mind that your doctor may have a few issues on his or her mind to discuss with you, so allot time for that.
  1. UNDERSTAND THE RECOMMENDED PLAN OF ACTION: Medical information and terminology is complex, so if you don’t understand something, don’t hesitate to ask. Make sure you understand the main problem, what action you need to take, and why it’s important. Then stick to the plan!
  1. WORK WITH YOUR DOCTOR AND OTHER HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS AS A TEAM: Share your health history with your care team. Make sure each doctor you see knows what the other is thinking and planning. This includes test results, medications, and other current treatments.
  1. RESEARCH OPTIONS AND POSSIBLE TREATMENT PLANS: While you’re not the medical expert and should work with your care team and your doctors to develop a treatment plan, researching possible plans can help you stay engaged in the process and learn more about your condition.
  1. IF NECESSARY, SEEK A SECOND OPINION: For major medical decisions, it can help to get a second opinion.
  1. REAP THE BENEFITS:Congratulations! You’re on your way to being an engaged patient, involved in making informed decisions regarding aging well, and being as healthy as possible. Now it’s time to make sure you reap all the benefits from your doctor’s visit.

AgeWell Cincinnati’s partner organizations offer a full range of services for older adults in our community—including RN and Nurse Practitioner Care Managers with Jewish Family Service’s CareLink care management practice; the Health Educational Lecture series and Balance and Strength exercise programs at the Mayerson JCC’s Senior Center; and Home Care and Home Health and Hospice with Cedar Village.

AgeWell Cincinnati is available to help make your journey to better health and wellness as easy as possible. Jewish Cincinnati is filled with highly credentialed, respected, and experienced doctors and other health care professionals. Call us if you need to be connected to the health care professional that offers what you are looking for. Call AgeWell Cincinnati at 513-766-3333 or visit our website