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Ask the Expert: A Nurse’s Guide to Having a Great Doctor’s Appointment

May 15, 2017 | Ask The Experts

Whether it’s time for your annual checkup—or something is ailing you—there are steps you can always take to help make your doctor’s visit a success. We reached out to Michelle Carey, RN, for some expert advice on making the most of your appointment.

What are some of the best ways I can prepare in advance?

    1. If this is your first appointment, make sure to verify that your insurance is accepted with the front desk. This curtails unforeseen expenses associated with seeing a doctor outside of your coverage network.
    2. Give the front desk as much information as you can about your medical needs. Different appointments times are needed for new patient appointments, yearly physicals, medication refills, and so forth.
    3. Make a comprehensive medication list if you are currently on any prescribed medications, over the counter remedies, or supplements. This should include the drug name, dose, interval (once daily, twice daily, etc) and time you take it. Some pharmacies can print copies of individual prescription histories upon request. Thoroughness of the list is important—it will contribute to the accuracy of your medical record.
    4. Compile a list of your own medical history including diseases, surgeries, and any hospitalizations.
    5. It is usual to provide a list of diseases that run in your family. Some of them have indicators for early testing, such as family history of breast cancer before age 50.
    6. It may be helpful to write down a list of the specific health concerns or symptom details that can be shared with your provider during the appointment. This can aid in memory recall, and ease stressors going into the appointment.

What should I bring with me when I go?

  1. Copies of both your insurance card and photo ID. If you are covered under a spouses’ insurance plan, make sure that you have their identifying information as well to ensure expansion of your beneficiary coverage.
  2. The lists you assembled prior to the appointment for medications, individual/family medical history and notes on your health concerns.

What kinds of information should I be giving to the nurse?

    1. Give your nurse details about the incident, symptoms, and/or medical concern that brought you into the office.
    2. Be sure to supply thorough answers for their questions, as this aids in screening and preparation for your doctor during the appointment. This may include questions on your health history, family medical history and medications. The lists you complied prior to the appointments can be used at this time.

What type of information should I be sharing with my doctor?

    1. Share the reason that you made the appointment with your doctor, as it helps to determine areas of focus for your physical assessment.
    2. Be sure to fully disclose information. Critical investigatory pieces can be missed if you exclude information that can be pertinent to potential disease processes such as: recent sleep disturbances, skin abnormalities, fluctuations in energy levels, and any other physical or mental abnormalities.
    3. Do not shy away from details, or sharing implications of mental health changes. Your doctor is a professional, and has heard it all. These details will only help them in treating you and should not make you embarrassed.
    4. Use auditory feedback of what your perception is on information shared with you. This helps to ensure that you’re accurately grasping the information and will help you to follow the treatment plan.

Before you leave . . .

    1. Ensure that you have a clear understanding of the treatment plan. Follow-up with the doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you have questions or need more help for the prescribed therapies.
    2. Find out if another visit is needed and schedule appointment if necessary.
    3. Get copies or reminders for any additional testing that might be ordered.
    4. Ensure that you know any reasons to follow back up immediately for your specific condition. That way you have a guideline for any potential indicators that would require further assessment.
    5. Ask for a card for your doctor that includes their name and phone number should you need to contact them.

Armed with these tips, you can make the most of your next doctor’s appointment.