How to Get the Most Out of Your Doctor’s Visit
Use these tips for remembering details, bringing up awkward topics, and getting the best preventive care and treatment.
Finally scheduled that eye exam or annual checkup? Well done on being proactive about your health. If you want to optimize your time with your provider, there are some simple steps you can take to prepare for your appointment.
“A lot needs to happen in our short visit together,” says Robert F. Raspa, MD. Dr. Raspa is a family physician and faculty member with St. Vincent’s Family Medical Center in Jacksonville, Florida. The average time a doctor spends with a patient is only 22 minutes, Dr. Raspa says. To make the most out of every one of those minutes, use these helpful tips.
Tip #1: Make a list.
It’s not uncommon for people to get home after a doctor’s visit and realize they forgot to ask a certain question. Before your appointment, write down your health concerns and questions so you won’t forget to talk about them when you meet with the doctor. Put your questions and concerns in order of how important they are to you since you might not get to everything. (Remember — 22 minutes.) Be sure to include anything that’s been bothering you lately, no matter how small.
One more thing to add to the list: the names of all the medications you are currently taking so your doctor can review them. That includes supplements and over-the-counter medications. This is especially key if you’re taking multiple medications prescribed by different providers. It can help your doctor avoid dangerous interactions. In addition, it might point to what’s behind a symptom you’re experiencing.
At your appointment, share your list with the intake nurse during check-in. Share it with your doctor right away too (in case not everything on your list was passed along). “Letting me see your list will help me prioritize our time together,” says Dr. Raspa. If you don’t make it through the entire list? Make a note and ask the doctor if you can follow up later.
To find health information you can trust between doctor visits, check out the private health library in BlueForMe, the digital health management app that comes with your plan. The library is easy to search, and it’s full of articles written by medical experts. Call 844-730-2583 to see if you're eligible for BlueForMe today.
Tip #2: Know your history.
Knowing your family’s health history can offer some important clues about health issues you might come up against. If, for example, your family has a history of high blood pressure, certain cancers, or heart disease, sharing this information can help your doctor determine which health screenings to recommend for you and when to get them. If your dad had a history of colon cancer, for instance, you might need to be screened before the recommended age of 45.
If possible, make a phone call to your parents and grandparents before your appointment. Ask them about any health issues in the family. Take notes so you can share this information with your doctor.
Tip #3: Speak up!
Talking about your health can be uncomfortable. Maybe you’re embarrassed about how much junk food you eat or your loss of interest in sex. Perhaps bowel changes or mental health or addiction problems are on your list of concerns. It’s natural to feel awkward about certain behaviors or symptoms. But don’t let it stop you from bringing them up.
“Those topics are never fun to talk about. But we’ve heard it all before,” Dr. Raspa says. “You won’t shock us.”
Keep in mind that your doctor wants to help you. To do that, they need complete and correct information. To put yourself more at ease, let your doctor know you’re a little reluctant. Open with something like, “This is uncomfortable for me to talk about.” That shows you’re feeling vulnerable and would be grateful for a more compassionate response.
Tip #4: Bring along a family member or friend.
If you’re seeing a specialist, going through treatment, or you feel nervous about the possibility of getting bad news, having a friend or family member by your side can be very helpful. They can be a second set of eyes and ears to help you remember to ask questions. And they can help you recall the details of your conversation with your doctor.
“The best thing your loved one can do is take notes for you,” Dr. Raspa says. “Give them permission ahead of time to speak up and ask questions.” Often, it’s the patient’s partner or family member who asks for more details about a test or a medication, Dr. Raspa says.
Before your appointment, check with your doctor’s office to see if they’ll let a visitor join in person. If not, bring them into the room virtually. Before you start talking with your doctor, call your loved one. Angle the phone so they can hear everyone. Give them a job, like listening to your doctor’s orders, so they can ask clarifying questions. Even if they don’t speak during the appointment, having a companion can help calm your nerves.
Have questions about your doctor’s orders or scheduling follow-ups and screenings? Reach out to your registered nurse through BlueForMe’s private messaging system. They can help you get answers, find providers in your network, book appointments, and more. Call 844-730-2583 to see if you're eligible for BlueForMe today..
“American Cancer Society Guideline for Colorectal Cancer Screening.” American Cancer Society, November 17, 2020, https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/CRC/PDF/Public/8606.00.pdf. Accessed October 10, 2021.
DISCLAIMER: Florida Blue has entered into an arrangement with Wellframe to provide members with care decision support services, information and other services. This article is provided by Linkwell Health through their arrangement with Wellframe. Please remember that all decisions that require or pertain to independent professional medical/clinical judgment or training, or the need for medical services, are solely your responsibility and the responsibility of your physicians and other healthcare providers. Wellframe is an independent company that provides online services to Florida Blue members through the Blue for Me app.