5 Things You Can Do to Have a Better Doctor's Visit

Communication must be a two-way street. Rare disease patients often battle a variety of complex clinical symptoms. A visit to your specialist often results in as much confusion by the end of your appointment as at the beginning. Healthcare providers are usually under pressure to keep patient face time to a minimum, so clear communication is a vital step in understanding your plan of care.

Your doctor needs accurate information to help you. It’s essential patients with short-term memory problems or mild cognitive impairment pre-plan for what they need or expect to learn during their appointment. My husband, Gary, keeps a small daily notebook where he records his vitals, notes about medication or symptom changes, fluctuations in blood pressure, pain levels and new questions.

Without this health diary, he is unable to remember significant details, or forgets essential questions whether an appointment is a few months down the road or tomorrow. He brings his notebook to every regular office or hospital visit. Physicians find details with dates and times very helpful. It also helps if you can tell the story of events leading up to a specific incident. I was doing my usual ____ late in the afternoon, and then I was doing ____ when I started to feel______. A detailed explanation is more helpful than “my ______hurts.” Just keep it brief.

We saw proof during a recent visit to his sleep doctor. Gary has been rotating through many different APAP masks while they try to find one that will work for him. He was able to search his diary for answers as the doctor was reviewing specific incidents on his APAP recordings.

Remember, your physician is not a mind-reader. Unless you speak up, providers can only assume you understood everything they discussed during your visit. How often, if you’re a patient with a severe hearing loss, have you just smiled and shook your head in agreement? Don’t allow embarrassment to stop you from asking someone to repeat information as many times as necessary. If you don’t, you will return home frustrated and angry because you missed valuable instructions.

When you visit your healthcare provider, you need to practice practical communication skills, so at the beginning of every encounter remember one word: “answer.”

Before you begin your exam, ask your provider to please allow a few moments at the end of your visit for questions and answers. Here are five things you can do or ask your doctor to improve communication and understanding.

  1. Note that you require written information about your symptom or condition.
  2. Suggest you would like clear written instructions regarding what steps you are to take if your condition becomes worse.
  3. Write down all the medical terms, names and words that describe your condition.
  4. Ask the doctor to explain things to you in language you understand.
  5. Repeat any information or terminology you are not understanding.

If your healthcare team is allowed to become familiar with your specific communication needs, I think you’ll find this can improve their understanding of your problems and concerns. You will also benefit by becoming an active and informed participant in your plan of care. Remember, it’s always important to ask questions and advocate for yourself to get the care you deserve.

This story originally appeared on livingwithss.com

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Rare Disease

side by side photo of robin roberts and emily gordon

10 Celebrities Who Know What It's Like to Face Rare Disease

Having a rare disease can sometimes make you feel like one in a million. It can be a long time before you even find other people who share your diagnosis, and an even greater challenge to meet someone face to face. So in case you’re feeling like “the only one,” these are 10 celebrities who [...]
Sad young woman holding mobile phone in bedroom at home

When You Can’t Help but Compare Yourself to Healthy Bodies, Remember This

This is a message for those who face illness head on because they have no other choice.  On the days where you can’t help but compare yourself to healthy bodies and wonder why your life is so starkly different. In the depths of the night when you can’t help but curse your less-than-perfect health, and [...]
cartoon of woman with a thought bubble near her head

When Your 'Healthy' Alter Ego Starts Taking Over

How often do you tell yourself, “I should be doing such and such” or “I’d better do this or that?” We all do it. It’s like we are programmed from birth to constantly have a catalogue of “should do, must do, better do,” all filed in the front of our minds for easy reach. I’m [...]

What It Means to Be My Child's Mom

Being his mom means unplanned trips to the emergency department on a Saturday night because his fever spiked, signaling the first sign of another infection. Being his mom means hospital stays, specialist appointments and new medications. Being his mom means sleeping in hospital chairs listening to beeping machines all night but being grateful. Being his [...]