What to know before your next appointment with your Healthcare Practitioner

Have you ever gone in to your annual appointment, weeks before thinking that you want to ask your Healthcare Practitioner (HCP) various questions about your blood pressure, diet, a weird pain you get in your elbow, etc., but then you get there, leave, and remember an hour later what you wanted to ask? Even I have been there! It’s usually a little different on my end, because we do the medical check up chat, then catch up on people we know in common, yet I still forget to ask my questions. I also realize that I can usually just page or email my HCPs directly to get that quick question answered, whereas it is harder for patients to get in touch with their HCP many times to get the answers they wanted.  There are some things that you can do, to make sure that you are getting the most out of your appointment.

HCP questions
How can I prepare for my appointment?

– When you see various news topics, or read things that make you question your risk, write it down:

You might not always get a response call or email from your HCP right away, so if you are going in any way, you might as well ask, right?

– Call ahead and ask if they will want to have blood samples, and if any of them need to be fasting (i.e. no eating before)

Commonly to get accurate cholesterol levels, they should be checked when you haven’t eaten for 8 hours prior. There are some other tests that they may want to check on an empty stomach.

– Make a list of all medications and supplements (along with doses) that you take

You want to compare what you take, to what your HCP has in your record to make sure that everyone is on the same page.  Plus, you should let them know any food and/or medication allergies you might have.

– Bring a pad and pen

You want to make sure that you are writing down the answers to your questions, and you also want to write down what health advice your HCP gives you (perhaps some lifestyle changes, or a plan for treatment of blood pressure or that annoying elbow pain).  It’s easy to get nervous and forget what they said or remember the exact plan, and it can be overwhelming, so write it down and/or ask THEM to give you a copy of your treatment plan written down.

– Better yet, bring your healthcare proxy, family member, or friend

They can also help to process the treatment plan if you get anxious or nervous and tend to forget what your HCP says.  Plus, it is always helpful to have someone else’s perspective, right? Your guest can be a little more objective with the news or plan because the news isn’t about them.

What to do during your appointment:

– Make sure you ask all of your pressing health questions!

– Be honest with your symptoms, and if you have tried anything to alleviate them (or self treat) because it will help us to determine what might be going on, and give us a better idea for a treatment plan

– Make sure you tell us about your family history (cancer, cardiac disease, mental health, etc.)

– Tell your HCP if any other HCP has been treating you and why

– If tests are performed, ask when you might expect results and how they will let you know the results.

After your appointment: 

– Make sure you follow through with treatments

– Make note of any side effects from medications you may have started

– Call your HCP if your symptoms are getting worse or not improving

– Make a list of new questions you want to ask at your next appointment

Reading this, most people thing: Duh, these seem pretty obvious.  And they do, but we all live very fast paced lives, and I forget where my cell phone is (when it might be in my hand) so it is only natural that my mind goes blank when I’m trying to think of questions I was pondering a week ago! Write things down, read things back to your HCP to make sure that you are on the same page with a treatment plan and follow-up visits, and I promise it will make a world of difference!

Yours in Good Health


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