How can I prepare to get the most out of my next medical appointment?

Aging Health & Wellness

Organize your thoughts beforehand on paper, and bring a friend or family member if you need additional support.

It can be easy to get flustered sitting in an exam room. Yet your time with your clinician is a valuable opportunity to get your questions answered and prepare to continue to take care of your health. Here are some tips to make the most of your visit:

🧠 Organize your thoughts.

If you have questions or concerns before your appointment, write them somewhere you can easily find. Have new symptoms? Ask yourself:

** When did they start?
** Does anything make them better or worse?
** How has it impacted your life?

Keep a symptom log with any relevant vital signs like blood pressure or blood glucose/sugar if it helps.

Try to prioritize and rank your concerns. Your clinician may only be able to address the first few during your visit, so make sure they count!

📋 Ensure your health information is up to date.

Notify your clinician of recent emergency room visits, hospitalizations, or specialist appointments. Have a copy of any new recent procedures, tests, or diagnoses. It may be helpful to list these from most to least recent. Don’t forget to report any updates to your family medical history as well (e.g. breast or prostate cancer).

Bring a written list of your up-to-date medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements. List the name, dosage, and administration instructions. If you can’t make a list, bring your medication bottles to review with your clinician.

🎙️ Make sure you understand what you hear

Your clinician may be the “expert” in the room, but you know yourself best, and clinicians can’t read minds (yet) 😉. Ask questions if something confuses or concerns you. Try restating what you’ve heard to your clinician to ensure you heard them correctly. Take notes if it helps you remember what was discussed. Above all, be honest and thorough when answering exam questions.

Assert yourself if you feel like your clinician is dismissing you. You can use phrases like, “I’m concerned”, “I don’t understand”, or even “I need you to stop.” If you feel you’re not being heard, it may be time to find a new clinician.

Request an interpreter if your clinician is not fluent in your preferred language. If you need glasses or hearing aids, bring them during your visit.

🤝 Bring additional support if needed

Bringing a trusted family member or friend to your visit may be helpful. They can help track what was discussed, ask questions on your behalf, and provide emotional support if difficult conversations arise. Let them know in advance how they can be most helpful to you. Feel free to have them step out if you need privacy with your clinician.

TL;DR Stay engaged and informed, and have support alongside you to be the best advocate for your health during your visit. Remember–you are the expert in yourself!

Stay Nerdy. Stay well.

Those Nerdy Girls

Additional Resources:

Joint Commission–Speak Up About Your Care

National Institute on Aging–How to Prepare for a Doctor’s Appointment

NPR–How to Talk to Your Doctor (video)

Link to Original Substack Post