How to Prepare for your Doctor’s Office

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

Rob Lamberts, MD
6-minute read
Episode #51

Tip #2: Give Symptoms, not a Diagnosis

If you are confused or don’t trust what the doctor told you, you have wasted a visit.

It isn’t a good idea to greet your doctor with something like, “I think I have a sinus infection,” or “I am worried that I am having a heart attack.” I am not saying that you should keep your opinions to yourself, but it’s much better for your doctor to avoid jumping to conclusions when hearing your story. Heart attacks, for example, can present in very subtle ways. If a person comes in saying they think their asthma is causing their difficulty breathing, the doctor may assume the patient is right, and will miss symptoms that suggest heart problems.

The best time to give your diagnosis is after the doctor has listened to the story and made his list of possible causes. In this circumstance, the patient asking “could this be my heart?” is very useful. Patients often think of things that I would otherwise miss. You just want your doctor to hear your story unbiased before you tell your theory.

Tip #3: Know Your Medications

As a doctor who specializes in internal medicine, I’ve seen many patients come in with symptoms related to their medications--either prescriptions, over-the-counter, or natural medications. You take medications for their positive effect, but never forget that there can always be negative effects too. Here’s how to be most helpful regarding your medications:

Keep an accurate medication list: Bring this list with you to every visit. 

Bring in the medication: If you are confused as to what medications you are supposed to be taking, bring the bottles in and let the doctor sort it out.

Write down when each medication was started: I often have patients tell me their symptoms have gone on for two months and then later noticed they started a medication at that time. 

Be honest: Don’t be scared to tell your doctor if you haven’t been taking your medications. Yeah, you may get a lecture, but it is really important that your doctor knows exactly what’s going on.

Think about every medication you take: Don’t forget about over-the-counter and alternative medicines you are taking. They can have side effects, and they can also interact with prescription medications you take.

Tell your doctor about other doctor visits: If another doctor started or stopped medications since your last visit, make sure you tell your doctor. Don’t assume he knows about it; most of the time he doesn’t.


Medical Disclaimer
Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

About the Author

Rob Lamberts, MD