Senior Scene: About your Health:
Make the most out of visits to
Going to the doctor can be nerve-racking and overwhelming for most patients.
Here are some things to consider to help make your doctor's visits as
pleasant, informative, productive and beneficial to your health as possible:
1. Plan ahead.
Most routine visits are usually scheduled at least four weeks in advance.
This allows most patients to plan around this date.
Though most routine visits generally last anywhere between 15 and 45 minutes,
it is a good idea to allow at least two hours before and after your appointment
Do not try to squeeze in other errands or appointments within this time, to
allow for waiting time, transition and travel, and unanticipated tasks such as
scheduling or going to an impromptu diagnostic test, or seeing another doctor or
health specialist your doctor may have recommended or picking up a prescription
from the pharmacy.
2. Be prepared for your visit.
Some patients take a notebook with them to their doctor's visits to jot down
important points they wish to ask their doctor.
List the issues you would like to discuss and go over this list with your
doctor, in descending order of importance. It is important to make sure that you
discuss the more important matters first as your doctor may tend to spend a
greater deal of time addressing this problem. If you leave out the most
important health issue for last, your doctor may not have enough time to address
3. Be informed.
If you have read or come across something that you think may be relevant to
your health, it may be a good idea to bring a copy to show your doctor and ask
his or her opinion about this matter.
Do not be intimidated to ask questions. Ask you doctor to clarify medical
terms that may not be clear to you. You may jot down specific directions on home
remedy or for taking certain medications that you think you may forget sometime
later. If your doctor is ordering tests, it is good practice to ask what this
test is for and what exactly your doctor is hoping (or hoping not) to discover
with this particular test. If your doctor is prescribing a new medication, ask
what side effects to watch out for with this new medication, as well as its
desired effects. When given a medical diagnosis, try to get a clear sense of
necessary precautions, the course or duration of the illness, usual symptoms to
expect and signs and symptoms to watch out for that may mean worsening of your
condition, as well as symptoms that you need to look out for that absolutely
require emergency or urgent care. Some doctors give out patient information
hand-outs about certain medications and conditions, but if this information is
not readily available, it will ultimately be to your advantage to ask your
doctor about these issues.
4. Keep your doctor informed.
In the same way as asking your doctor to keep you
well-informed about your condition, it is important to always have any
information that you think may be medically relevant readily available with you
during your visit. Most doctors request that patients bring their current
prescription bottles during all visits. If you are also seeing other health
specialists, keep your primary-care doctor updated about your other medical
appointments, and what had been discussed during these visits. This will be
particularly helpful if your other medical care providers have not sent out
correspondence regarding your condition to your primary-care doctor. If you are
a new patient, have the following information readily available on your first
visit: medication allergies and type of allergic reaction, medical history,
which includes previous surgeries, hospitalizations, chronic medical conditions,
immunization record and records from your previous doctor.
Dr. Richelle Cruz is a doctor at Stamford Family Practice.
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