Before your appointment

Looking at your calendar, you see that you have a doctor's appointment next week. What can you do to prepare?

Write it down: Prepare a list of questions and concerns that you want to discuss. Your list should include any changes in symptoms you've noticed since your last visit, and any changes in your life that might cause you stress or affect your condition. Write down all medications and herbal products you are taking and have them ready to bring with you.

Do your homework: Bring any articles you've found in newspapers, magazines or on the Internet you'd like to discuss. If you were admitted to a hospital for any reason since your last visit, bring the hospital discharge sheet with you.

Prioritize: The average doctor-patient visit is about seven minutes, so chances are you won't have time to discuss all your concerns. Prioritize your list of questions and concerns so that you talk about the most important items first.

Break the ice: If you have had problems talking to your doctor in the past, there are often ways to improve the situation. Try working out your concerns before your appointment and arrive prepared with some opening statements that help you clearly state your concerns. Here are some examples to consider:

"I need to be able to talk to you about ------, but I feel like I can't. Can we talk about this?"
"I know you're busy, but I really feel like I need to discuss ------ in more length. Can we set up a time to do this?"
"I'm concerned that we're not communicating well, and this is why…."

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