How to prepare for an appointment with your doctor
As our population ages, health care needs continue to increase. Canada also has 20-50% less physicians than other countries. This means that it’s important to make the most of each visit with your doctor.
Research shows that empowered patients who take an active role in their health have a better quality of life, improved health outcomes, and put less strain on the health care system. Following these steps can ensure you get the most benefit from your doctor’s visit.
Prioritize your concerns
Be prepared. Write down and prioritize your concerns. This will allow you to remember everything that you need to discuss with your doctor. Do you have a new symptom you need to ask about? Were you concerned about your test results? Have you had your flu shot? If you have more than a few items to discuss, put them in order and ask about the most important ones first.
If you need time to discuss something more in-depth or you have a number of concerns or symptoms, let your doctor’s office know, they may need to schedule a follow up appointment to continue your chat.
If you are on regular medication, bring a list of all the medications that you take. If you don’t have one, your pharmacist can provide you with a list. If you have chosen to take vitamins or supplements, please include that on the list.
Ask questions and take notes
Don’t be afraid to ask questions during your appointment. Doctors want you to understand the advice we are giving, and if you need clarification, we want to help so that you can get the best care possible. Taking notes during your appointment can also be helpful, particularly if you have a complex condition or are feeling stressed. Notes will allow you to take time to absorb the information or help you remember to follow specific instructions.
If you don’t feel comfortable taking notes, you can ask your doctor if it’s okay bring a friend or family member with you to help write down the answers to your questions. This has worked extremely well in my own practice.
Don't be embarrassed (really!)
If you're planning to discuss a personal topic, one way to avoid nerves is to practice what you plan to say in advance. Trust me, we’ve heard it all. Our passion and our commitment is to help you with any and all issues, and we keep all health related issues confidential.
Let your doctor know about your lifestyle too – like how often you exercise or if you smoke, drink, or use drugs. If you have a hard time remembering to take your medication or have missed doses, let them know. These can be important factors in your treatment.
If you have health concerns, make an appointment with your family doctor. The priority of Ontario’s doctors is the health and well-being of every resident in the province. If you use the tips above it will help you get the most out of your appointment. And it will help us, help you, get the best possible care.
Dr. Sohail Gandhi, OMA President