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How to Prepare for your Doctor’s Office

How to get the most out of your visit to the doctor.

By
Rob Lamberts, MD
Episode #051

Tip #4: Don’t Leave the Doctor’s Office Confused

The most important part of a doctor’s visit actually happens when you walk out the door. If you are confused or don’t trust what the doctor told you, you have wasted a visit. My job as a doctor is to direct the patient and help them, but they are the ones who take the medications, get the tests done, and deal with the sickness or disease. When you walk in the door of the exam room, you hand your problem to the doctor and get their help; when you walk out the door, the problem is handed back to you and your doctor moves on to the next patient. 

What You Need to Know Before Leaving the Doctor’s Office

Here are important things to know before you leave:

All about your prescription: What are the medications for? What should you expect when you take them?

What to do about existing medications: Are there any medications you should stop? Doctors often forget to make it clear when replacing one medication with another that the old medication should be stopped. Simply asking the question, “So what medications should I be taking now?” will get the job done.

Test results: If tests were done in the office, what were the results, and what do those results mean?If blood was drawn or tests were ordered, what are they for and when should you hear about the results?

Follow-up treatment: If a consult or procedure was ordered, when should you hear about this being scheduled? What does the doctor want to find out from the consultant or procedure? Also, when should you come in for follow-up?

Symptoms: What symptoms should you look out for to know when to call back?

Many doctors realize that a little communication at the end of the visit can make things work much better, but some don’t. Confusion isn’t necessarily the patient’s fault. Make sure you don’t leave confused.

Tip 5: Assume Nothing

The sad truth is that American health care is disorganized. My frustration with this is a common topic for my blog. Unfortunately, the responsibility to keep your care organized falls predominately on you. Remember the following:

Never assume “no news is good news”: Doctors don’t always get results of tests-- or if they do they can be misplaced in the record. Asking “When should I get the results” at the end of a visit will give you an idea of when you should call. 

Don’t assume doctors communicate: It frustrates and angers me to say this, but I don’t always know when my patients have seen specialists, gone to the emergency room, been hospitalized, or even when they’ve had surgery. It is bad. It is wrong that it’s this way, but it is an unfortunate reality. Call your primary care doctor to make sure she knows about anything done elsewhere.

My episode about medical information on the internet might be helpful to you as well, especially since it has some tips about how to talk with your primary care doctor about your health.

That’s it for this weeks’ article. Next week will be my one year anniversary gala. I am going to do another mystery diagnosis article. Be there or be square.

If you have topics that you want me to cover, send them to housecalldoctor@quickanddirtytips.com, or you can submit them to me on twitter (@housecalldoc) or my Facebook page.

Let me once again remind you that this podcast is for informational purposes only. My goal is to add to your medical knowledge and translate some of the weird medical stuff you hear, so when you do go to your doctor, your visits will be more fruitful. I don’t intend to replace your doctor; he or she is the one you should always consult about your own medical condition.

Catch you next time! Stay Healthy!

Doctor and Patient image courtesy of Shutterstock

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About the Author

Rob Lamberts, MD
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