Making the Most of Your Provider Visit

By Dr. Jane Murray 

Your health is one of the most valuable assets you have. When you work with a health care provider, you are on a team. Your provider has information and experience on his or her side; you have your own body, past experiences and inner wisdom on your side.  So it is important for you to come prepared to visits with your provider with a clear idea of the symptoms, problems and questions you wish to discuss, and what you hope to leave the visit having accomplished.
It is helpful for both of you if you prepare an actual written list of topics you would like covered in the visit. Your provider may or may not have allotted enough time to cover multiple issues. You might want to let him or her know at the beginning of the visit the items you would like to discuss, and see how much time is available. Prioritizing your questions so the most important ones are sure to be addressed is a useful strategy.
If the purpose of your visit is to review lab or other test results or consultation reports from another provider, then it is wise to call the office a day or two before your appointment to be sure all the needed information is available. This will save time on the day of your visit to concentrate on your issues rather than tracking down missing information.
Reporting accurately and succinctly about your symptoms and concerns is also useful. A clear and chronologic review of what you have been experiencing, what may have helped you feel better, and what you have tried that has not worked for you are all very important pieces of information that help your provider help you better. Having a few notes that you have written down in preparation for the visit regarding these issues is very useful. An updated, written list of all the medications and supplements you take is always valuable.
Being prepared for office visits by having your agenda clearly in mind and communicating your needs openly to your provider are ways you can help him or her help you best.