5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Doctor’s Appointment

  • by Mellissa S.
  •   November 21, 2016

Mellissa S. is a paid employee of Teva Neuroscience, Inc.

Imagine the following scenario:

You come up with a question and think, “I have got to ask my doctor about this.” The appointment with your doctor arrives, but he/she is behind schedule and you feel rushed. You can’t remember a single question you had. So you are left a little confused and find yourself nodding and smiling to every statement just so you can get out of there pronto (I call this the “nod and smile zone”).

Sound familiar? Not the most productive way to interact with your doctor, but we’ve all been there. With a little prep work, you can help facilitate a meaningful doctor's visit that will leave you feeling empowered about your health care decisions.

Here are five tips to getting the most out of your next doctor’s appointment.

  1. Come prepared. Being prepared for your visit makes things easier for everyone. Be on time to your appointment, have all your insurance cards/ID with you, and (my personal favorite) have a current medication list in your wallet. I know it sounds trivial, but that current med list will make the check-in process slightly less painful for everyone. The less time spent on paperwork mumbo-jumbo, the more time you have with your provider.
  2. Write down your questions ahead of time. It doesn’t have to be typed or anything fancy. It can be informal--even written on a napkin will work. Write down those burning questions you need the doctor to address. Keep a running list so that after the appointment, you can mark off the ones you got answered and have any remaining questions ready for your next visit. Your phone is a great tool for this too… I bet there’s an app for that.
  3. Bring your diary. Not the pink diary with heart doodles and unicorn stickers all over it. I’m talking about the symptom diary where you track your relapsing MS and other health symptoms. Don’t have one? Might be a good thing to consider. Tracking symptoms can help you and your doctor conduct a comprehensive review, since it is often several months between visits. Don’t limit yourself to MS symptoms; anything you notice that is new or different is worth jotting down. Again, this doesn’t have to be fancy. Use a small calendar, personal planner or your phone. And don’t be shy; your doctor has heard it all before and welcomes the dialogue.
  4. Have a plan for the visit. Make sure that you set goals for the appointment. Ask yourself, “If nothing else, what do I need to leave here knowing?” It can be as simple as asking about a diet, or as complicated as getting details on medication side effects. If you go in with a definite direction and expected outcome for the visit, your doctor can streamline the visit while covering all the important points, resulting in a comprehensive appointment.
  5. Advocate for yourself. This means making informed decisions and asking for what you need. Don’t get stuck in the “nod and smile zone”! Ask questions, get educational materials. This can seem tricky, since we see physicians for their knowledge and expertise. It is important to remember that no one knows you better than you! Take control, be in the driver’s seat, speak up, and make sure you get the best care possible.

I hope these tips help give you some ideas on how to get more out of your next appointment and steer clear of the dreaded “nod and smile zone.” What sort of things do you do to make sure you get the most out of your health care visits? Share a comment below.

Mellissa S.

Shared Solutions® Nurse

About The Author

Mellissa S., RN: I work for Teva's Shared Solutions® and I have been a nurse for over 6 years. 

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5 Comment(s)
  • Tina | December 16, 2016
    I always take my man or someone in the room with me so I don't get in that nod & smile situation, and forget the reason I 'm even there!😢
    • Teva's Lift MS Team | December 19, 2016
      Thanks so much for sharing your story, Tina.
  • Marion  | January 09, 2017
    I try to bring somebody with me. Because I usually forget what I went there for and then I start to feel how dare I question the Dr. sometimes I feel foolish when I leave, thinking maybe I didn't really feel bad or maybe it's all in my head not really multiple sclerosis, come to think of it it is really in my head. I always have to stop, take a deep breath and Remember I have the right.
    • Teva's Lift MS Team | January 10, 2017
      We understand living with MS adds extra challenges to life, Marion. We’re so glad you’re here and hope you find helpful support.
  • C | March 11, 2017
    Very helpfull.thank u for that..
  • Susie | May 10, 2017
    I wish I had the luxury of bringing someone with me to doctors' appointments,

    I do try to follow the helpful advice to take notes before and after the appointment.
    • Teva's Lift MS Team | May 11, 2017
      We understand life with MS can be challenging, Susie. We hope you continue to lean on this community whenever you need support.
  • Dianne | June 04, 2017
    Your five tips were really helpful, thank you.