It’s a good thing to speak to a doctor proactively. If you’re feeling under the weather or if you’re experiencing aches and pains, going to a doctor before it gets worse can give you the advice you need to get better faster—or ease your concerns by letting you know it’s nothing to worry about.
That said, too many patients walk into their doctor’s appointments unprepared or underprepared, and they don’t take the appropriate steps to protect themselves. So what steps should you be taking before setting up that appointment?
Do Your Research
First, do your research. Thanks to the internet, it’s easy than ever to get a better understanding of your current symptoms, and walk into your appointment with a vague idea of what might be plaguing you. As long as you don’t go overboard, and become convinced you have something unrealistic, this will be beneficial as an initial talking point for your appointment. You may be able to rule out certain things immediately based on your symptoms, or you may find yourself better able to articulate what’s actually bothering you. Plus, if the doctor believes you’re suffering from a certain condition, you may be able to scrutinize that assessment if you know you’re missing a hallmark symptom.
You should also research the doctor you’re visiting, and the practice overall—especially if this is your first visit here. See how other patients have reviewed their experiences here, and what kinds of qualifications your doctor has.
Be Ready to Document Everything
Next, be ready to document everything. You can start by writing down the time and date of your appointment, but the more you’re prepared to record what happens during your appointment, the better. This is important for two reasons.
First, you’ll protect yourself against the possibility of medical negligence, which is more common than most people realize. If you’re given bad advice or an inaccurate diagnosis that makes your condition worse, you’ll have written notes or a voice recording that confirms when and how that advice was given to you. This is imperative in proving causation in the world of medical negligence, so it’s worth taking that extra step.
Second, your notes will help you accurately capture and follow your doctor’s recommendations. If you’re ever confused about what you’re supposed to do, or if you forget exactly what the doctor said, you can look back on your notes or your recording and get an answer straight from the source—or as close to the original source as possible.
Know What Questions You Want to Ask
Before you leave for your appointment, think about what questions you want to ask, and write them down if you can. In the middle of an appointment, we often get too distracted or nervous to remember what our main concerns are, so it pays to have them brainstormed and written down in advance. During your appointment, take your time, and try to pay close attention to what the doctor is saying. This is the best time to bring up a question or concern if you have one, so be ready to vocalize it when the opportunity presents itself.
Before finalizing your appointment, look at other service providers in your area offering the same type of healthcare. This can be good to get a better understanding of your doctor’s unique qualifications, but can also make it more convenient for you to seek a second opinion if and when you need one. For everyday checkups and basic care, you probably won’t need a second opinion, but if you’re considering getting surgery, or if you’re going to deal with an invasive or inconvenient treatment, a second opinion is practically necessary to ensure you’re making the best decision.
Establish a Schedule
Depending on your age and specific health risks, you should see a general practitioner and each of several specialists on a regular basis. Before you go to your appointment, consider when the last time you visited a medical professional of this type, and when you should probably see them in the future. The doctor may advise you to follow a certain schedule based on your upcoming interaction, and they may automatically schedule you for future appointments, but it’s a good idea to think about your schedule and routine ahead of time.
These simple steps can make sure you get the most out of your appointment, getting you better-quality care and giving you plenty of alternatives if things don’t go the way you expected. They shouldn’t take much time, but they do have a chance to greatly improve your health outcomes and protect you if anything goes wrong. Start incorporating them into your routine.