DEAR SAVVY SENIOR: Can you write a column educating patients on how to prepare for doctors appointments? I manage a number of small health clinics, and have found that patients — especially seniors — that come prepared when they visit our doctors are much more satisfied with the care they receive. Thanks for your help.
DEAR EDUCATOR: You're right. Studies have shown that patients who help their doctors by providing important health information and preparing themselves for appointments tend to get better care than patients who don't. Here are some simple things we can all do to help maximize our next visit to the doctor.
Gathering your health information and getting organized before your appointment are the key steps to ensuring a productive meeting with your doctor. This is especially important if you're seeing multiple doctors or are meeting with a new physician for the first time. Specifically, you need to:
The best advice when you meet with your doctor is to speak up. Don't wait to be asked. Be direct, honest and as specific as possible when recounting your symptoms or expressing your concerns. Many patients are reluctant or embarrassed to talk about their symptoms, which makes the doctor's job a lot harder to do. It's also a good idea to bringing along a family member or friend to your appointment. They can help you ask questions, listen to what the doctor is telling you and give you support.
Also consider taking some notes or ask the doctor if you can record the session for later review. If you don't understand what the doctor is telling you, ask him or her to explain it in simple terms so you can understand. And if you run out of time and don't get your questions answered, follow up by phone or email, make another appointment, or seek help from the doctor's nurse.
Savvy tip: The National Institute on Aging offers a booklet called “Talking With Your Doctor: A Guide for Older People” that provides great information including a variety of questions to ask that can help you be a more informed patient. To get a free copy mailed to you, call (800) 222-2225 or go to www.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or go to SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC's “Today” show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.