Five Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Doctor's Visit
On this page:
- Decide what questions are most important to ask the doctor
- Stay focused on why you are there
- Be honest with your doctor
- Share your point of view about the visit with your doctor
- Remember, the doctor may not be able to answer all your questions
- Four tips to help you remember the doctor's instructions
Have you ever left your doctor’s office realizing you forgot to ask an important question? Or were you frustrated because you didn’t fully understand the doctor’s instructions? These tips may help.
1. Decide what questions are most important to ask the doctor
Before your appointment, pick three or four questions or concerns that you most want to talk about with the doctor. You can tell him or her what they are at the beginning of the appointment, and then discuss each in turn. If you have time, you can then go on to other questions.
2. Stay focused on why you are there
Although your doctor might like to talk with you at length, each patient is given a limited amount of time. To make the best use of your time, stick to the point. For instance, give the doctor a brief description of the symptom, when it started, how often it happens, and if it is getting worse or better.
3. Be honest with your doctor
It is tempting to say what you think the doctor wants to hear, for example, that you smoke less or eat a more balanced diet than you really do. While this is natural, it’s not in your best interest. If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, it's important to come out to your doctor, as people who are LGBT have unique health needs. Your doctor can suggest the best treatment only if you say what is really going on. For instance, you might say: “I have been trying to quit smoking, as you recommended, but I am not making much headway.”
4. Share your point of view about the visit with your doctor
Tell the doctor if you feel rushed, worried, or uncomfortable. If necessary, you can offer to return for a second visit to discuss your concerns. Try to voice your feelings in a positive way. For example, you could say something like: “I know you have many patients to see, but I’m really worried about this. I’d feel much better if we could talk about it a little more.”
5. Remember, the doctor may not be able to answer all your questions
Even the best doctor may be unable to answer some questions. Most doctors will tell you when they don’t have answers. They also may help you find the information you need or refer you to a specialist. If a doctor regularly brushes off your questions or symptoms as simply a part of aging, think about looking for another doctor.
You may also be interested in
- Downloading or printing worksheets for talking with your doctor
- Reviewing how to prepare for a doctor's appointment
- Finding tips for talking with your doctor about sensitive issues
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This content is provided by the NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA). NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure it is accurate and up to date.
February 03, 2020