Updated 13 July 2017

Tips to get the best out of your visit with your doctor

One way to make best use of the time spent with your doctor, is to prepare well. Being informed, empowered, and partnering with your doctor can be an effective way to get well and stay well.

Getting sick is bad enough without worrying about taking time off work to visit the doctor, planning for tests that need to be done and collecting medicines from the pharmacy. Adding to this list of hassles, is the vast amount of medical information available to you through public sources. 

According to the Head of Quality of Care at Discovery Health, there are some important tips to help you get the best from visiting your doctor.

1.   Most important is to plan what you want out of your visit. Think carefully through the 2 or 3 most important things you want help with and stick with your plan. Before you end your discussion with your doctor, check that you’ve run through your plan.

2.   Know the basics about your own health, and make sure that you share them with your doctor. Are you allergic to anything? Are you taking medication for anything? Do you have long-standing underlying health issues or chronic conditions? Are there any health issues that run in the family? What blood type are you? These are all really important details that a doctor can use to help diagnose and treat whatever might be bothering you.

3.   If you’re sent for tests, make sure you know what the test is for, why it is required, when you will hear the results, and how. If you have a Discovery HealthID app, refer your Doctor to the app to check your previous test results and avoid incurring costs on repeat tests. Some laboratories will make your blood results available to you through an App. Check with your doctor for information about this.

4.  Ask questions: doctors study for seven years and only then do they specialise! There really isn’t such a thing as a stupid question, so talk to your doctor until you fully understand what’s going on. Your doctor will have a wealth of important information to share with you. Never be afraid or anxious to speak to your doctor.

5.   Get a second opinion if you think this is helpful. Contrary to popular belief in SA, your doctor should not feel slighted if you thought a second opinion would help you make decisions that are right for you. Be open with your doctor about why you might want a second opinion and get your doctor’s support with doing so. 

6.    Is there anything else you can do in terms of your lifestyle, diet and other habits that will help? Your doctor will know, so ask. Thereafter it’s up to you to take the steps needed to improve your health

7.   Understand your diagnosis and remember its name in case you need to explain it to another healthcare professional. Write it down to be very certain you understand it fully.

8.   What’s the plan? What are you going to do if your problem gets worse? Do you need to come back for a follow-up? Make sure you know what to do when you leave your doctor’s office.

9.  Modern medicines are near-miraculous, but make sure you know what you’re taking and for how long. Sometimes, for example, you’ll need to keep taking medicine for some time after you feel better. Make sure that you understand and follow the doctor’s instructions carefully. Be certain to take a written record of your medicines with you whenever you are away from home for an extended time.

10. Look for opportunities to give your doctor helpful feedback on how you experienced your visit. 


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