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5 Tips For Having A Successful Visit With Your Healthcare Provider

We know that having a visit with your healthcare provider can be stressful. You have to rearrange your day, find your insurance card, arrange childcare, navigate traffic, find parking...all while you’re not feeling well. The last thing you need is to make all that effort and leave your visit disappointed.

While we work hard as medical providers to offer the best care we can, there are several things you can do as a patient to make sure you get the most out of your visit. Here’s what we suggest.

1) Bring All Your Concerns Up at the Beginning of the Visit.

In order to have a successful visit, make sure you bring up everything you want to cover during the visit at the beginning of the encounter. When the provider knows everything you want to address while you’re there, they can organize the visit to accommodate your concerns. Waiting until the provider has wrapped up the visit and is walking out the door before broaching a new concern can lead to frustration (for you and the provider), as well as a rushed evaluation.

2) Describe and Quantify Your Symptoms.

In order to accurately diagnose your condition, providers need you to give them specific information. The more details you can provide, the better! For instance, instead of saying you’ve had a cough “for a while,” tell the provider you’ve been coughing for ten days. Instead of saying you "have a problem with your arm," tell the provider that you get a twinge in your elbow when you lift objects heavier than twenty pounds. If you think you have a fever, measure your temperature with a thermometer and record the results. And ladies, it helps immensely if you can tell us the exact date of your last menstrual period!

3) Know the Names and Doses of Your Medications.

You wouldn’t believe how many patients arrive at their visit without knowing the names or doses of the medications they’re taking. There are tens of thousands of medications, so saying, "It’s a little blue pill" or "I think it starts with an M" usually isn’t enough information for us to narrow it down. In order to provide you with the safest medical care possible, your provider needs to know the names of your medications, as well as the doses. So bring your medication bottles with you or take pictures of your medication bottles before you leave the house or bring a written list of names and doses to your visit.

4) Be as Honest as Possible.

We know that it can be embarrassing to reveal personal details to a medical provider. But the more we know, the better we can help you. So if you experimented with recreational drugs last night or had unprotected sex last week or engaged in any other risky behaviors, please tell us. Everything you tell us in the exam room is confidential. And we’re not here to judge you; we’re here to offer you the best medical care possible. So the more details you tell us, the better we can care for you.

5) Communicate Your Concerns and Expectations.

Your visit will be much more successful if you clearly communicate your concerns and expectations to your provider. If you Googled your symptoms and are concerned your headache is actually a brain tumor, if you’re worried you have skin cancer because your mom had it last year, or if you’re looking for a specific prescription, please tell us! The more we understand your concerns, the more information (and often, reassurance) we can offer you. And the more you communicate your expectations, the more we can work together with you to arrive at a treatment plan that you feel good about.

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