Most people avoid going to the doctor. Whether it is the pressure of finding a new one, the anxiety of visiting one, or the inability to find time for your personal health, making a doctor’s appointment is an afterthought for many. It is important, especially in this day and age, that you don’t turn to the Internet as a substitute for your primary care doctor. Searching symptoms and looking up conditions on the Internet is ill-advised because unwarranted panic usually ensues. Instead, keep up with your health by making an annual doctor’s appointment to check in on your body.
Communication during your annual visit is key. Since your doctor only sees you once a year you have to make sure you discuss your health thoroughly and completely. But remembering any and all information over 12 months can be intimidating, so write symptoms, concerns, and questions in advance -- that way you can recall them when it is time for your appointment.
While the doctor will definitely ask you a ton of questions about your physical activity level, your bowel movements, and your family history (to name a few), it is important that you stay on top of your health and ask your doctor questions as well.
Before Your Visit
If you’ve never been to this doctor before, call the office and ask:
- Is the doctor taking new patients?
- Is this practice in my network?
During Your Visit
If your doctor is new to you, interview him/her a little to become more familiar and comfortable:
- Where did you go to school?
- How long have you been practicing medicine?
- What certifications do you have?
- Do you specialize in other areas of medicine?
Make sure you are up-to-date on everything that will keep you healthy:
- What are tests or screenings someone my age should get?
- Are all of my vaccines current?
Ask about medication:
- Should I be taking supplements?
- Should I stop taking extra vitamins and supplements?
- Why am I taking certain medications?
- Could I change or cut back on the medication I’m taking?
- How will this new medication help me and does it have any side effects?
If your doctor recommends a test, screening, or seeing a specialist:
- What is the test or screening for and when will I get the results?
- Why should I see this specialist and what will he/she help me with?
- Do you have any recommendations for labs, screening facilities, or specialists in the area?
If your doctor recommends a procedure or surgery:
- What specialist should I see to discuss this further?
- What is the procedure/surgery and how will it help my condition?
- What is the recovery time?
- How much will this cost with my insurance?
- Is this an urgent matter, or can I wait to have it done?
General questions to ask about your overall health:
- What can I do to keep my heart healthy?
- I’m worried about [heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc.], should I be?
- Is there anything you see from my physical that I could improve upon or should be concerned about?
In Preparation for Your Next Visit
Before you leave the office make sure to ask:
- Are there any prescriptions I need to take with me?
- When should I make my next appointment?
- Do I need a referral to see another doctor?
- Is there anything I can/should do to improve my health before my next visit?
While you won’t ask all of these questions in one appointment, it is important to be prepared and proactive about your health. Make sure that if a procedure or surgery is suggested or a condition is found to look into getting second opinions (and also coming prepared with questions). To a doctor no question is stupid: doctors would prefer you ask them any and all questions you have to eliminate any uncertainty or worry. The more knowledgeable you are about your health, the more likely you'll be happier and healthier overall.