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4 Tips to a "Successful" Doctor's Visit

Going to the doctor is one of those necessary evils in life that we all need to do from time to time. While it's never something one looks forward to, there are a few tips to making the visit beneficial-to both you and your doctor. And while going to the doctor is never something you'd put at the top of your wish list, I'd guess staying healthy is on everyone's list!

1. First and foremost, be prepared. Take a list of ALL medications, prescribed AND over-the-counter. Your doctor needs to have your most up-to-date list, as over-the-counter medications can interact with those prescribed by your doctor.

While on the subject of meds, be sure to include any pills, creams, powders-any and all vitamins-basically any type of health-related product in any form, from any and all sources. It's important that your doctor have the full record of everything you are ingesting. By the way, include drops and/or suppositories, too. Make sure to list dosages and amount taken each day.

2. Take a list of questions or concerns you'd like to discuss with your doctor. Leave room between questions to jot notes during the conversation, and don't be afraid to ask for clarification if you don't quite understand something your doctor has said. Medicine consists of specific language, and often healthcare workers talk the jargon of the profession without realizing the customer-you-doesn't understand the meaning of their words. The conversation is about YOUR HEALTH, so don't hesitate to ask for clarity. Be respectful, asking, "Let me see if I understand" and then repeating the instruction in your words. This will ensure you have a good understanding of the directions you are to follow.

3. Third but maybe most importantly, take a friend or family member with you, and have them accompany you into the exam room (if comfortable doing so). Often a visit to see a doctor can be stressful, and health concerns discussed usually aren't remembered in detail. It's good to have someone with you who can take notes, review your concerns (that you've written down prior to the visit), and help remember the instructions given by the professionals.

4. Be sure that prior to leaving your doctor's office, you understand any new medicines prescribed, especially potential side effects and/or interactions with medicines you are currently taking. (Another good source for this information is your pharmacist.) If tests have been prescribed, ensure you understand any prep, such as fasting (no food or drink) before a blood test, and be sure you have the date and time of the test written down. It's also good to check if the test is to be at a different location than the doctor's office.

Also regarding tests, it's a good idea to call your insurance company prior to the test date. You'll have a better understanding of the cost you're expected to pay (co-pay), and if there's any surprises, at least you won't have prepped for a test only to get there and decide it costs too much!

These tips aren't absolutely necessary in order to have a successful visit to your doctor, but being prepared can help lessen the stress and uncertainty of any situation where we might feel we have no control. A little planning can go a long way to living a healthier, happier life!

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