13 Ways To Prepare For A Doctor's Appointment, So It Won't Stress You Out
There's something about the doctor's office that turns many people into a deer in headlights. Maybe it's the scary equipment, the pressure of a one-on-one personal chat, or the actual horrible overhead lighting. Whatever it is, it's always best to prepare for a doctor's appointment to avoid wasting your time — or sitting there totally stunned.
Because whether you're super sick, or just going in for a checkup, I'm sure you have a lot of questions when it comes to your health. (Especially if you're a hypochondriac, like me.) That's what's so great about a little preparation. A doctor's appointment is your time to get things answered, to take responsibility for your health, and to actually leave with some helpful information.
When you don't plan ahead, however, it's not always possible to get the most out of your appointment. As Lauren Minchen, a nutritionist on GoodLooks, says in an email to Bustle, "I see many patients who are visiting their doctor around the same time they schedule an appointment with me, and often they don't have enough information about their condition and its implications in order to ask informative questions when they see their doctor. They may go in blind and only get the minimum information needed to really tackle it."
It's much better to go in with questions, a list of symptoms, and a little bit of knowledge. That way you can make the most of your appointment. Here are a few ways to do just that.
1. Gather Up Your Records
If you've been going to the same doctor forever, then hopefully all your medical info will already on file. If you're going to someone new, be sure to tote along (or have sent over) all your past medical records — x-rays, ultrasounds, MRI scans, etc. As Dr. Gopal K. Chopra said on CNN.com, "Bringing in these resources helps your doctors add context to your conditions." In other words, that old scan from 2011 may be entirely necessary for a successful and worthwhile appointment.
2. Know Your Family's History
Since diseases often have a genetic aspect, like breast cancer and diabetes, it's important to know your family's history as well. Did your grandmother have cancer? Does your dad have heart problems? These details will also help the doctor get a complete medical picture.
3. Write Down Your Medications
Even though you take them everyday, it can often prove difficult to remember the name of your allergy medication, or that weird multi-vitamin. So write down the those Rx names, as well as your dosages. Then make a copy and give it to the nurse, suggested Tom Valeo on WebMD.com, so the info can be added to your medical records.
4. Track Your Symptoms
The more detailed you can be about your issues, the more likely your doctor will be able to help. Consider keeping a timeline of fevers, rashes, headaches and the like. (How bad it was, when did it start, etc.) "This information is invaluable to your doctor, who gets to see you and evaluate your symptoms only in that five-to-seven minute window," Chopra said. It'll make everyone's life way easier.
5. Write Your Questions Down
Ever go to an appointment and blank of all of your questions and concerns? Prevent this from happening by coming prepared with a list of questions. As Minchen says, "... writing those questions down ahead of time can help you get the answers and peace of mind you need before leaving the office. It can also reduce the number of times you have to schedule follow-ups. Maximize each visit!"
6. Do A Little Research
Don't freak yourself out by constantly Googling your symptoms, as you will think you have the rarest and worst of all diseases. But do take it upon yourself to do a bit of research, mostly as a way of being an informed patient. As Michen says, "Research your condition or possible conditions and write down two to three questions you have to direct the conversation with your doctor. This can help keep your time on topic and get you the answers you need."
7. Ask A Friend To Come With
If you're getting checked out for a particular scary issue, see if a loved one will be willing to tag along. As Angela Haupt noted on Health.USNews.com, "Bringing a trusted friend or family member to an appointment ... makes good sense. That person can help keep your story complete, ask questions, and listen on your behalf, especially if you're too sick to focus or upset after receiving bad news." Plus, it makes hanging out in the waiting room a little less boring.
8. Practice Saying The Embarrassing Stuff
One of the more unnerving aspects of a doctor's visit is admitting your grossest qualities aloud. So prepare like you would for public speaking, and practice what you'll say ahead of time, suggested Valeo. This is a good way to avoid nervousness, especially if the topic at hand is particularly personal.
9. Prepare To Be Honest
In the same vein, be ready to be super honest. That means owning up to your smoking, drinking, sleeping, and sex habits — however embarrassing they may seem. The doctor needs to know all the nitty gritty details in order to give helpful advice, so let 'em have it. And remember, they've heard it all before.
10. Know If You Have To Fast
Some procedures, such as blood tests, often require you to fast beforehand. Keep this in mind, and don't snack on the drive over. Forgetting will mean rescheduling your appointment, and that's always a huge bummer.
11. Call Ahead About Insurance
On the clerical front, be sure to look into your health insurance ahead of time. Only choose doctors that are in your network so you don't get hit with a hefty surprise bill. And if you don't have health insurance, call ahead and ask the office about payment plans before making an appointment.
12. Bring Your Copay
Many a doctor's office will turn you away if you show up sans cash (or check, or whatever.) They need that copay, and won't see you without it. Find out if that's the case, and remember to stop at the bank on the way.
13. Actually Go To Your Appointment
OK, so you made the appointment, and now you feel kind of better and want to back out. Or maybe you're scared of the results, and think it's better to be ignorant. Don't do this to yourself. As Minchen says, "... there is a solution to almost every problem, especially if you catch something early, so be proactive about doctor visits, knowing that in the long run your visits will be much easier!"
Keep all of these tips in mind, and you should have a smooth, successful, and totally no scary doctor's appointment.
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