Living with Chronic Pain

6 Tips for Successful Doctor Appointments


Whether for routine check-ups, medication renewals, or other medical issues, visits to a physician are inevitable when an individual has chronic pain or any chronic condition. Preparing for an appointment eases stress and helps make the most of the time with the doctor. Six tips to use before and during the next visit to a doctor include the following:

1. Make a list

Bringing a list of questions and concerns to a doctor appointment helps an individual remember important details during their limited time with the physician. A list should include information about any new symptoms, side effects from medications, medication refill requests, vaccination questions, family history updates, and any other concerns. Providing the list to the doctor at the beginning of the appointment ensures that no question goes unanswered.

2. Pack a bag

Packing a small “medical information” bag and bringing it to a doctor appointment is helpful. The bag should contain current medications, insurance cards, names and phone numbers of other providers, medical records or test results from other clinics, and any current supplements.

3. Bring a buddy

Doctor appointments can be stressful, which can make it difficult to concentrate. Having a second set of ears in the room to listen to instructions and other important information can help tremendously. A buddy can also take notes or record the appointment (with the permission of the physician) so the information can be reviewed at a later time. Also, emotional support is always helpful.

4. Be honest

Being honest and specific about health-related issues with a doctor is essential for effective treatment. While certain symptoms may seem insignificant, the smallest details can help a physician properly diagnose and treat a medical condition. Anything that could be affecting an individual’s health needs to be disclosed, such as any surgeries (inpatient or outpatient), diets, exercise routines, sleeping habits, emotional issues, medication (prescription and over-the-counter) habits, supplement and vitamin usage, and illicit drug or alcohol consumption. Also, any changes since the last appointment need to be reported, no matter how trivial they seem.

5. Take notes

Taking notes during an appointment is important for future use. Details, such as diagnoses, prescribed or renewed medications and dosages, test results, and any other important information should be noted. If writing longhand or typing on a phone is too much of a challenge, recording the appointment is a viable option. Most cell phones have a voice recorder app. Also, plenty of apps are available for download that will not only record appointments but will also dictate them into text and highlight important information. It’s essential to ask the physician if it's okay to record the appointment, as recording-consent laws vary from state to state.

6. Ask for clarification

At the end of the appointment, asking the doctor to repeat any instructions that were given earlier in the appointment helps provide any needed clarification. It is important to make sure everything is completely understood before leaving the exam room, such as making sure prescriptions are correct (name, dosage, and total amount of medication for the month). If anything needs clarification, such as information about a new medication or a test that one is unsure is necessary, this is the time to ask. It is important to voice concerns and be one’s own advocate!

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