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Savvy Senior: How to make the most of your doctor's visit

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.
BY JIM MILLER Published: May 15, 2012
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Prepare a list of questions: Make a written list of the top three or four issues you want to discuss with your doctor. Since most appointments last between 10 and 15 minutes, this can help you stay on track and ensure you address your most pressing concerns first. If you're in for a diagnostic visit, you should prepare a detailed description of your symptoms.

During appointment

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.nia.nih.gov.

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.