How to make the most of your clinic visit
Many people find it difficult to talk to doctors or other healthcare professionals. If you’re having difficulty, try following the tips below to help you communicate with your healthcare team.
Preparing your message
It’s important to tell your healthcare team all of your symptoms so they are better able to help you to maintain your health. Symptoms are the signs that something is different or not right in your body or your mind. Hiding symptoms or feelings won't make them go away, so it’s important to be honest. Use a journal, computer or smartphone to track your symptoms, feelings and thoughts so you can remember them at your appointments. When writing down your symptoms, remember to describe:
what they feel like and when they happen
what makes your symptoms better or worse
how your symptoms affect your day-to-day activities
how you feel about these symptoms or your treatment.
When you’re in your doctor’s appointment, it can be easy to forget questions that you had been thinking about asking. We recommend that you think of your questions ahead of time, write them down and bring them to visits. It’s also a good idea to write down any questions that pop into your head during your appointments. This will help you make sure that you don’t forget to ask about the things that are important to you the next time you meet your doctor.
Communicating your message
Now that you’ve prepared the points you would like to cover in your appointment, it’s time to communicate them with your healthcare team. Use the communication tips from the beginning of this session to help you organize your thoughts.
You can also read through some specific information below about how to communicate effectively during your clinic visits.
You can ask questions at any point during treatment. Be sure to ask about procedures, medications, side effects or anything else that is not clear to you or that you might want to know more about. If you don’t understand what someone on your healthcare team has told you, or you don’t feel that they adequately answered your question, ask again until your question has been completely answered in clear language. Repeat what your healthcare team has told in your own words to confirm that you understand.
Don’t worry about asking too many questions during your appointments. In fact, there are no “dumb” questions – any question that is important to you is important to your healthcare team. Make sure that your healthcare team answers each question on your list and write down the answers. Some doctors let their patients send questions to them by email. Ask your healthcare team if this is an option.
Listening and taking notes
As a patient, you are responsible for listening to, and remembering, the information your healthcare team gives you. When you are dealing with a chronic condition, and many different appointments, this can be tricky. Most people can remember only two or three things that doctors tell them unless they write them down.
For this reason, it can be helpful to write down the information that your doctors give you in one place, such as a notebook especially for your healthcare information. You can even ask about bringing a recording device with you to make sure that you don’t miss anything that was said during your appointments.
Reflecting on your message
After the appointment, review any information your healthcare team gave you. If you are going online to research pain or treatment, ask your healthcare team to recommend websites and ask them any questions about the information you find in your searches.