Saratoga Doctor Visit Tips

Your Role As A Patient Advocate

closeup hands taking notesFollow these Saratoga doctor visit tips, and become a pro-active patient or patient advocate! Knowing how to communicate with your doctor or specialist is a key aspect to staying healthy and keeping potential problems in check. Below are a few bits of advice we've gathered to help you on your medical journey.

  1. Before your doctor's visit, jot down some notes on what you want to discuss. If you have a chronic condition or have been experiencing recurring symptoms, start keeping a journal that notes what your symptoms are and how often you experience them.
    1. Look for clues such as time of day and whether or not your symptoms worsened or improved after eating or after exercise.
    2. If you are experiencing pain, make sure you note how severe the pain is on a scale of 1 to 10, and again note what you were doing prior to the pain becoming more severe.
    3. Ask relatives if they have or know of anyone in the family with similar conditions. A genetic link to a chronic condition can be an important clue in your medical history.
  2. Tell the nurse or doctor every medication you are taking, and the dosage. Seems pretty basic, but remember to state everything, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and herbs. Some medicines and supplements work adversely when used together, so it's very important that your doctor knows exactly what you're already taking to avoid potential conflicts.
  3. Clearly list any allergies and discuss with your doctor any adverse reactions that you've had to previous medications. Understanding your body's sensitivities can help your doctor tremendously in finding a safe and effective treatment for your ailments.
  4. doctor talks with patient Don't be afraid to speak up if you have a question or concern. If you're not sure that you understand everything your doctor is telling you, ask him or her to explain it further. You have every right to understand your condition and treatment options completely before committing to any medical care or treatment.
    1. Take notes in your journal, or bring someone with you to take notes and ask objective questions. This can be particularly useful when you are facing a serious condition where emotion can make it hard for you to be calm and neutral.
    2. Ask the doctor for materials that better explain your condition. Or have them write down the exact diagnosis or condition, and spelling variants.
    3. Clarify the purpose of any treatment, medicine or procedure.
    4. Ask for a second opinion if necessary. Most insurance companies gladly pay for second opinions, especially when surgery is involved.
  5. Research your condition online - but keep an open mind and be wary of alarmists. Sites like WebMD at www.webmd.com are respected sources of information as are organizations dedicated to common chronic diseases such as the American Heart Association at www.americanheart.org or the National Cancer Institute at www.cancer.gov. Just remember that not everyone's medical journey will be the same and that the severity among different conditions can vary widely, even among those with the same diagnosis.
  6. Ask about medication side effects. If your doctor prescribes a new medication, find out what, if any, side effects may occur, and how commonly they occur.
  7. Clarify your prescription. Find out the exact name (including spelling) and dosage of your medication. Doctors often have messy-almost illegible-handwriting and many medications are similar in spelling and pronunciation, even though they treat widely differing conditions. If you can't read the prescription your doctor writes, there's a chance that your pharmacist may not be able to either, so take the guess work out of getting medication and make sure you are in the know.
  8. checking prescription bottle labelImmediately check the label when you get your prescription filled to ensure you received the right drug. Double check with the pharmacist if you are unsure. Often the doctor writes the prescription for the brand name, and the prescription is filled with a generic product, which can be confusing. Have the pharmacist point out the corresponding brand name on the bottle. There are several online pharmacy directories that list brand names and generic names. Some of the more well-known are www.rxlist.com and WebMD's Drug List. Never hesitate to call your doctor's office and confirm.
  9. Pay close attention to any side effects of your new medication, match them up against the normal side effects your doctor told you about, or the literature that came with your medicine. Keep track of how often and to what severity you are experiencing symptoms.
  10. If your side effects are abnormal from what is commonly experienced or symptoms become severe, consult your doctor immediately or seek medical assistance at an urgent care facility. Don't delay! Avoid taking additional medicine for relief or taking a nap to see if symptoms improve. Some reactions from medication require immediate medical attention.

If you have Saratoga doctor visit tips, patient advocate ideas, or a Web site you felt was a good resource, write , and let us know!

PSA - If you or a loved one want to take a proactive step and get tested for HIV or other STDS, find out how »

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