Going into a health care appointment can be intimidating and frightening. Even accomplished, confident women may find themselves unsettled and subdued. Suddenly, we’re not in control. We don’t know what’s wrong, and we don’t know what we need. We can easily get lost in the system.
Ideally, your practitioner recognizes the challenges you face and makes accommodations. Our mammogram techs take time to explain what they’re doing and why, for instance. This is especially helpful when it comes to avoiding pain during a mammogram. They’ll talk with you throughout the process and ask about your comfort so that they can make adjustments as they go along. Our physical therapists don’t just tell you what needs to happen, they ask you what areas that you want to work on.
Too often, however, the focus is not on the patient experience. But still, I have found that there are a number of things you can do to take charge of your own care.
It starts with being prepared. Decide what you want out of the appointment. Is it a wellness visit? Do you have an issue that concerns you? It helps to have a list of things you want to cover or questions ready so you don’t forget them.
Take advantage of all the information that’s available. If you are experiencing something of concern or if you’re worried about your family history, find out more about it before your appointment so you are ready with questions. Add those to your list.
Have answers ready too. Think about what the provider needs to know. What family history is relevant? What in your medical history matters? Written notes can help. It’s good to include dates if you have them and contact information for other providers if records are needed.
If you’re on medications, bring in a list of what and when you take them. Include herbal supplements and vitamins.
During the appointment, don’t be afraid to take notes. This can be especially helpful if your doctor is prescribing medication or giving you instructions. Show the doctor what you’ve written to make sure it’s right. You could even record the conversation to listen to later to make sure you got everything. Many phones these days have a recording app.
Don’t be afraid to ask for more information. If a doctor talks about a condition, procedure or a medication that you aren’t familiar with, ask if she can refer you to resources on it. Although the Internet can be useful, it’s best to know you are getting your information from a credible source.
And finally, be ready to make decisions. Your providers will give you advice and guidance. They can give you ample information. But after considering it all, your health is in your hands. You need choose what’s best for you.