19 Jan Preparing for Your Doctor’s Appointment – Information is Power
Preparing ahead of time for your doctor’s appointment is the most important factor to optimize your time in the office and get the best health outcomes. In the US the average time you have with your doctor is less than twenty minutes. Oftentimes it is much less. Ensuring that you are prepared and have collected all the information and documentation that your doctor may need can help speed up the often snail-like pace of the healthcare industry so that you or your loved one get on the path to health and wellness.
A great tool to make the most out of the short time you have in front of your doctor is to compile the information they need before your appointment and make sure it is in front of them at the time of your appointment. Creating an outline for your appointment, whether it be with your
Primary Care Physician or a specialist, can direct your appointment for the most effective use of time, get to the heart of your concerns, and on a path to move forward with testing, diagnosis, and treatment.
Your outline should have your or your loved one’s full name and date of birth at the top. Adding in contact information, like a phone number and/or email address, can be helpful too. Following your personal information and contact information you should decide on what sections your outline should include. Much like a resume, keep it as short as possible with only the most important information needed, aiming for one to two pages. These sections might be the following: your current symptoms with dates of onset and descriptions (i.e. sharp or dull pain, wheezing or wet cough, etc.); concerns including abnormal lab results, changes in your condition, changes in your health history like procedures, hospitalization, change in medication etc; and a list of pertinent questions about possible diagnoses, next steps, care management, etc.
You can also attach a list of your medications, with dosages and frequency of each of your medications. Having an up-to-date medication list can help your provider evaluate possible drug interactions and see if there is any medication that needs to be discontinued or if there is a gap in your medication.
What to do Next
Once you have an outline made up it is best to call your doctor’s office. Most of the time the automated line will have a fax number for the office, if it does not, speak to someone in the office and request the fax number or an email address. Explain to them that you have an outline for your appointment with Dr. (insert name here) on (insert date and time here) and you want your doctor to have it in your file to review for your upcoming appointment. Send the outline via fax or email, or request a family member or friend to help you.
Always make sure you print out two copies of the outline to bring with you in addition to sending it to the doctor beforehand. In the event that the office staff did not get the outline into your file or to your doctor in time for your appointment, you can hand them a copy when they come into the room. The other copy will be for you. Use it as the agenda for your appointment. Explain your symptoms, points of concern, and ask the questions you have. You can write notes on this outline with your doctor’s recommendations and answers so that you can document what was discussed in the event you need to review it at a later time.
There is a reason they call it “practicing medicine,” our doctors and providers are only as good as the information they have in front of them. Being an active member of your healthcare team is an integral part of advocating for yourself and your health.
Example of an appointment Outline:
Date of Birth
- Use detail to describe your symptoms here
- Add the date your symptom began after your description, MM/DD/YYYY
- List concerns you want addressed here
- Abnormal lab result from this date MM/DD/YYYY
- Brainstorm questions you are hoping to get answered at your appointment
- Can include what future appointments are needed? Any referrals for other specialties?
- Possible diagnoses?
- What are my next steps? Do I need further testing?