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13 Things You Need to Know Before Your Next Doctor's Appointment

I am a trained paramedic with a B.Sc. in emergency medicine acquired at Ben-Gurion University.

Get Up and Do It

Going to the doctor is something that many people hate doing—it requires clearing out time in our busy schedule, setting an appointment (usually one for some day far, far away), and dealing with a problem that we would probably rather ignore for as long as we can. Unfortunately, problems usually don’t just go away themselves, so when you feel you need to see a doctor about something that is bothering you, it’s probably a good time to set the appointment. You can always cancel it later if it really does go away. So, let's make sure you're well-prepared when you finally make the appointment. Here are 13 things you should know:


Be Prepared, But Not Too Much

1. Don’t "over-Google" it. The point of looking something up is not to get a diagnosis or treat yourself at home; it’s to give you a better understanding of the subject when you talk to your doctor. The most you can get out of spending a whole day on the internet is terrifying fear. Let the one who has dedicated over a decade to studying it do the diagnosing for you.

2. Be prepared. Know exactly what you're going to say. It doesn’t matter if it’s your annual check up with your cardiologist or if it’s the first time you go to a gastroenterologist—they need to hear all the information. It’s all relevant. If you think you might forget something important, you can always write it down.

Express Yourself

3. Share as much information as you can. As a paramedic, I remember more than once using a specific detail the patient thought was irrelevant or related to another problem to reach a diagnosis. Let the doctor decide what’s important and what isn’t.
4. Don’t be shy! Tell your doctor whatever it is you have to say, with details and specifics; they've probably heard it all before.
5. Say what you came to say. Doctors are usually in a hurry to the next patient—you are not. If you feel they're trying to rush through the appointment, don’t let it make you nervous and forget something. Take it easy and use your notes.
6. Consider going accompanied. You can always bring a family member or a friend if it makes you feel more comfortable but not at the expense of hiding things you wouldn’t say in front of them. If they walk in with you, it must be someone you completely trust to reveal everything in front of. If you feel any different, ask them to wait for you outside.
7. If you don’t feel good around your doctor, you shouldn’t be there (this applies to about everything we do and everyone we meet, not just for doctors). You're entitled to ask for a second opinion.

Your Note Doesn't Have to be Pretty, But Useful

this is just an idea. Do it in a way that will help you make sure you said all you wanted to.

this is just an idea. Do it in a way that will help you make sure you said all you wanted to.

Don't Leave Anything Behind!

8. Make sure you understand everything the doctor says. If there’s something you don't understand feel free to ask! Get an explanation for everything, you don’t want to make another appointment on another day just to get an explanation for something you didn’t ask, and you definitely don't want to leave the office confused.

9. Ask the doctor to write everything down. Do not expect to remember everything they say, especially things they say you should do after the appointment. What isn’t written down won’t happen! That’s what a printer is for, and in case something isn't printed, they even have a pen that they shouldn't be afraid (or lazy) to use.

My Office, Tu Casa

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The Appointment Is Over, Now What?

10. Talk to someone. After leaving the doctor's office, try speaking to someone you know who has some medical background or knows about the subject and ask their opinion. After you hear what they have to say, tell them what your doctor told you and listen to what they have to say about that. But remember, don’t rely on what they say 100% just because you know them. Also, talk to a friend or family member. Talking about it helps you remember what the doctor said and digest it.

11. Act now. After you leave the doctor’s office, whether you have anyone to consult or not, you have to decide whether you’re keeping this doctor or you want a second opinion before you continue as they said. If you want a second opinion, make an appointment with a new doctor no later than the day after!

12. Every time you tell your story is a fresh start; the doctor you’re talking to now doesn’t know what you told the one before. Tell the new doctor at least everything you told the previous doctor. You can share more information but never share less.

13. Move on. If you don’t like what one doctor says, and a different doctor tells you the exact same thing, it probably means they are both right. Don’t spend your time going to see more and more doctors about the same thing if they all suggest the same course of action as a solution.

Organize Yourself

Before The AppointmentDuring The AppointmentAfter The Appointment

Don’t over-Google it!

Share information.

Consult an acquaintance with knowledge on the subject.

Be prepared. If you think you might forget something write it down.

Don't be shy, be specific and feel at home.

Decide whether you accept the doctor's advice or want a second opinion.


Make sure you understand everything and have all the information before you leave.

Act fast! Whichever next move you have chosen, do it immediately.

Gloves Off, You're Up

After we talked about how to prepare for the appointment, what you should do during the appointment and what to do right after it, the most important thing is what you do the next day. If the news you received from your doctor is a lot to deal with, share the burden with someone: a close friend, a family member, support group, the internet, or any other person or a place you can think of. Remember that you’re not alone and reach out for help. You can always ask your doctor to direct you to the right place as well.

It doesn't matter how prepared you got to the appointment, how specific you were or how much information, and how accurately you got it from the doctor if you do nothing about it. Remember that you’re seeing the doctor to get their help, but they can’t help you if you don't help yourself. Once you have decided to trust your doctor and what they say it means you’re fully committed to it, you need to complete your part of the deal; whether it’s a certain diet, medications you need to start taking regularly or any kind of change they tell you to do in your life’s habits, your doctor can’t do it for you. If the problem is more serious and requires more drastic treatment, you might need more preparation, taking one step at a time or organizing a support network first. However, you'll still have to take those steps yourself. Your health is your responsibility, and ignoring the problem won’t make it go away—it will probably make it worse. Be sure to do your best to prevent that.

Please feel free to share below any past experiences, issues you had at appointments or good experiences or tips that help you get the most out of a doctor's appointment.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2018 Yuval Barak

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