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GET PREPARED
Nurses, doctors and patients have some helpful pointers for your next visit – whether you’re going alone or with a friend or relative.
- Before a Visit
- At the Visit
- If Medication Is Advised
- Tests
- Medical Diagnosis
- After Your Visit

Click here for helpful forms related to this topic!


Before Your Visit

Here's a great pamphlet - 'Your Family Health and Medical Record'. This helps you track medications, vaccinations, doctors information, surgeries, allergies, etc.

Fill it out and update it after each doctor visit or when you have new medical information. Make several copies. Print out extra copies of pages 7-12 if you have more than one child. (Thanks to the Texas Cooperative Extension.)

WHN TIP: Fill It Out

Medical Appointment Tracking Form This way you can track each appointment and your progress. Fill out the form and add it to your folder after each appointment. You can also fill in on your computer, save to your desktop and update as needed. You'll need Acrobat Reader. It's FREE.

WHN TIP: Family Update

Update on your family history. If your grandmother or even your great-uncle passed away, when did that happen and what were the circumstances? This lets your doctor know your genetic risks for things like heart disease or breast cancer. Include new additions to the family, as well - David R. Donnersberger, MD

WHN TIP: Insurance Info

You'll usually need to show your insurance, Medicare or Medicaid Card(s). Check your insurance policy or talk to your agent about co-pays.

  1. If you are not well, write down your symptoms and when they started.

  2. Have you seen additional medical practitioners since your last visit? Bring their contact info.
  3. Bring a list of medications you are taking, the prescribing physician, what they are for, how long you have been taking them and when the prescription ends.
    • Don’t forget to list any nonprescription medications, herbal supplements or minerals and vitamins you are taking.

WHN Expert TIP: Bring Reports and Copies of Tests

Bring along a written copy of any diagnostic reports, any tests, and if you've had surgery, bring along a copy of the surgical report -- Dr. Malton A. Schexneider, PT, MMSc

At the Doctor

  1. Hand them your list of symptoms and medications and fill out any other necessary forms.
  2. Make a mention of any and all tests you've had in the last 6 months and give the name of the physician and location where they were taken. Your doc should know any and all tests you’ve undergone, from pregnancy to stress to physical therapy.
  3. Mention any health or medical changes to the doctor at your appointment.
  4. WHN Expert TIP: Spill the Beans

    Mention all changes in work or social habits. Have you lost your job? Do you party every other night? Spill the beans. This information will offer your physician a complete picture of your current lifestyle, and that’s what he or she needs to make valuable recommendations - David R. Donnersberger, MD

  5. Be concise when describing symptoms (when they started, what they feel like and answer questions as best you can).
  6. Ask questions about things you don't understand (tests, procedures, symptoms, diagnoses, medications, etc.).
  7. Although you may be in pain, be polite.

If Medication Is Advised

  1. Make sure you know what it is for and that the doctor knows the other medications you are currently taking.
  2. Note details about the prescribed medications. Read Prescription and Nonprescription Drugs for a list of questions to ask about your medications.

    WHN Expert TIP:Insurance Coverage

    Not sure what prescriptions are covered under your insurance plan? Head to your insurance company's web site and print out the complete list of medications covered under your prescription plan. This will save time and money! --Jennifer Walker, RN, BSN

    Review this starter list of questions. Feel free to add on your own:

    • What is the medication called?
    • What is this drug(s) or treatment(s) for?
    • When should you take this medication? Is time of day important?
    • How is it administered? Should you take it with water or food?
    • Are there food or drug interactions to be aware of?
    • What are the possible side effects or problems that can occur?
    • What are the brand names and the generic names of the drug(s)? (Have the doctor/nurse write them down for you.)
    • Are there any changes needed regarding my current medications?
    • Are there any activity, dietary or alcohol restrictions?
    • How long will you have to take this medication?
    • What should you do if you forget to take it?
  3. Should you talk to you before I refill the prescription?
  4. Should you call you to talk about the progress of the medication/treatment?
  5. What's the next step after the medication?

Tests

  1. If tests are ordered, what are they are for?
  2. Who schedules the tests?
  3. How soon should you have them?
  4. What is the doctor looking for?
  5. How are the tests done?
  6. What information will the results provide?
  7. Is this test the only way to find out that information?
  8. What are the benefits and risks of having this test?
  9. How accurate is the test?
  10. Is there anything you should do to prepare for the tests?
  11. Will the test be uncomfortable?
  12. Would the test have any possible side effects?
  13. When will the results will be ready?
  14. Who tells you the results?
  15. What's the next step after the test?

WHN TIP: Extra Copies

Request that all tests and procedures be marked “Copy to Patient” so you can receive copies for your files. If you’re seeing multiple doctors, request that a second copy be forwarded to your primary care doctor. Provide your doctor's name and address, if they are at a different clinic or location.

Medical Diagnosis

Here is a starter list of questions you may want to ask. Feel free to omit or add questions of your own.

WHN TIP: Explain the Diagnosis

Have the doctor explain diagnosis to the patient. That is the doctor's job.

  1. What is the exact diagnosis and prognosis?
  2. Why do you have this problem?
  3. Ask the doctor or nurse to explain medical terms and conditions you don't understand.
  4. How will this diagnosis affect your overall health and in the future?
  5. Will more tests be needed? See Tests above.
  6. Regarding diagnosed conditions, what treatment options are available?
  7. What are the possible side effects that can result from each one?
  8. What are the possible benefits from each treatment? When will you start to see them?
  9. What are the chances that the treatment will work?
  10. Where will the treatment take place?
  11. What pre-existing conditions might influence the treatment or prognosis?
  12. What will happen if you don't get treatment right away?
  13. What are the costs for each treatment and will my insurance cover it?
  14. What is the typical recovery time for my condition?
  15. What can you do to help speed recovery?
  16. Should you make any dietary, lifestyle or medication changes? If so, how will that affect the recommended treatment? (For example, could you take less of this medication if you lost weight?)
  17. Read this if you want a second opinion.
  18. Are there organizations or specialists that deal with this kind of problem or situation? Is there a patient support group?
  19. Should you see a specialist? Can the doctor recommend one? How soon should you see this specialist?
  20. What resources (web sites, magazines, etc.) have more information?
  21. Can the doctor contact my doctor via phone with follow-up questions regarding my diagnosis and/or condition?
  22. When is the best time to call? What days are best?
  23. If my doctor is away on vacation or unavailable, who will be able to answer any follow-up questions I may have?
  24. When should you meet with your doctor again?
  25. At the end of your appointment, consider requesting reminder phone calls, e-mails or postcards (whatever works best for you) about regular check- ups.

After the Visit

  1. Keep a diary of your condition. Track the name and details of each medications. Note changes (better or worse....).
    • Watch for side effects from medications. Write down symptoms.
    • If you believe you are experiencing a side effect, or if your condition worsens, contact your doctor or pharmacist right away. Tell them if you have done anything to try and treat it. If it is an emergency, call 9-1-1.
  2. Contact your doctor's office with follow-up questions regarding your medications, tests, treatments, insurance information and/or diagnosis.
  3. If your doctor said you need additional tests, make appointments.
  4. If your doctor suggested to see a specialist, make an appointment.
Remember ...

The information provided here is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice. These tips are from doctors, nurses and people who have shared real-life advice; always check with a doctor or appropriate professional you trust before making any health care-related decisions.

Thank you ...

A special thank you to the industry professionals, doctors, nurses, patients and families who gave us their time, insight and real-life advice.

Last Updated: 9/2008


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