Preparing for a Doctor’s Appointment to Maximize Precious Minutes

No one likes to go to the doctor. It makes us nervous. We may be worried about our health, and the unfamiliar surroundings don’t help. We realize that our medical care is in the hands of someone else and we aren’t sure we trust everyone involved.

Even if we do trust the medical providers, we might still be anxious. We sit in the exam room, listen to what is happening outside the four walls and wait. We are alone with our concerns until the doctor walks in. We understand she is pressed for time so we try to cram everything we want addressed into a very short period of time, usually 7-15 minutes. We enter into a conversation with our doctor, are asked questions, report our symptoms and what is occurring with our health, become sidetracked and …bingo!..we forget the important questions we wanted to ask the doctor.


 Stress interferes with our memory. It happens to all of us. It’s not uncommon to leave a doctor’s office and remember an important point of our visit that was not addressed. All because seeing a doctor about a medical issue is stressful.

If you prepare ahead of time, you’ll feel more confident and more empowered as a patient. It’s about taking charge of what you can. It’s not easy being a patient, and believe me, I’ve been a patient for a long time. For 16 months I had a severe chronic pain condition (lower abdominal pain) and ended up living each chapter of my new book, The Take-Charge Patient: How You Can Get the Best Medical Care. The journey was not an easy one. Ironically, six months into my interviews of over 200 physicians, nurses, other medical professionals and patients for my book, unrelenting pain forced me to use the strategies I’d developed and gleaned from my research. I saw 11 physicians of differing specialties, 3 alternative medicine practitioners, went through 15 procedures and tests and was prescribed 22 medications. I received 10 misdiagnoses. To say that I was discouraged, exhausted, depressed and disillusioned with medical care, is an understatement. But through my research, I found my own diagnosis and the surgeon to heal me. As it turned out I had a muscle tear in my C-section site with nerve involvement, an inguinal hernia with a nerve passing through the hole, and two belly-button hernias. Because hernias in women are rare, no medical provider I saw thought of it.

Tips to prepare for a successful doctor’s appointment:

1. Prepare a list of questions for your doctor. What do you want addressed in the office visit?

2,  Create a brief health summary that includes:

-your top three medical concerns

-your list of current medications and their dosages, over the counter medications, herbs and supplements

-any symptoms you’ve been having, when they occur, what makes them worse or better (for example: exercise or eating) and what you have tried for symptom relief.

List any medical professionals you’ve seen for your current condition or for other conditions that pertain to your visit.

3.  Prior to your appointment, obtain copies of any test results and reports that were done by other physicians. Bring these copies with you. Never rely on a doctor’s office to send them as medical offices are very busy and your request can be easily overlooked.

4. If you are seeing this doctor for the first time, create a brief health history including major medical events such as surgeries, serious illnesses, medical conditions and more.

Preparing in this way will allow your doctor to view your entire medical picture. This saves time and prevents you or the doctor from lassoing the information from other doctors or your pharmacist. Putting it together also familiarizes you with what is happening with you medically, where you’ve been, whom you’ve seen, and what medications you are taking.

This is about being in charge of you as a patient. And taking some of the control eases anxiety, and increases self-confidence.

Written by – Martine Ehrenclou, M.A. Patient advocate, patient and award-winning author of The Take-Charge Patient and Critical Conditions.

Join us for an hour with Martine and learn more 10/2/12 @ 8pm ET #treatdiarieschat