Studies show that patients manage their diseases better when they communicate well with their doctors. But with limited appointment time and a long list of concerns, you may not be giving your doctor the most important information he or she needs to treat you. We asked two leading rheumatologists to share tips for patients to make the most of their doctor visits. Here is their advice:
Write down your concerns. Having a list of questions and concerns ensures you don’t forget to bring them up. “It’s important for people to organize their thoughts about what they want to accomplish at a visit,” says Daniel Clauw, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Rheumatology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
List your pills. You should tell your doctor all medications you take and their dosages to avoid potential problems with new treatments. List vitamin supplements and over-the-counter meds, too; ibuprofen or aspirin, for example, could cause gastric upset or even bleeding when combined with certain prescription drugs.
Log your symptoms. “[A doctor’s appointment is] a 12-minute snapshot into someone’s life, and it’s not necessarily reflective of what’s happened in the three to six months between visits,” says Dr. Clauw. Although your doctor has lab tests to see things like inflammation, it doesn’t necessarily show how they are affecting your day-to-day life.
Discuss side effects. If you have medication side effects, tell your doctor He may adjust the dose or switch your medication. “If someone just has nausea from one codeine product, I can try another one,” explains rheumatologist Robert Shaw, MD, at Carroll Arthritis in Westminster, MD.
Know what brought you in. When seeing a new specialist, “it would [be] helpful if the patient brought a note from the referring doctor as to why they’ve been sent,” says Dr. Shaw. Telling the doctor will save valuable appointment time, as he will not have to scan your entire chart.