Get the Most Out Of Your Doctor Appointment
A doctor’s visit is one of the most valuable steps you can take to keep yourself healthy. Whether an annual checkup or a visit to address a specific health concern, keeping a few simple steps in mind before, during and after your visit will help you put your best foot forward.
We spoke with Mario Dominguez, MD, family practice physician and director of Beth Israel Deaconess Healthcare-Plymouth, to get his advice on getting the most out of your next appointment.
Q: What can I do beforehand to make my doctor visit useful?
I’ve been caring for individuals and families on the South Shore for 16 years and I can tell you our community is a bunch of busy people. Sometimes we put off doctor visits because we just have too many other things to do. When my patients do that, they often come with a long laundry list of health concerns. It can become very difficult at that point to get through that list and determine which are the most critical issues to address right now. My advice is to have an annual checkup and appropriate blood work, and see your doctor as health concerns arise. Problems are often much easier to fix when dealt with early on rather than after weeks or months of festering. So, the first simple step: When you feel ill, see your doctor. Don’t save up all your aches and pains for that annual visit.
Q: What can I do during the visit to get the most out of it?
We need information from you to help you get better. Getting an honest, detailed history is very often the most important part of diagnosing what’s wrong. So think about what’s been going on with you and come prepared to answer your doctor’s questions honestly. Sometimes I get the New England stolid response, “Oh, I’m fine really. My wife/husband forced me to come.” If I’m going to figure out how to make you feel tip-top, I need to hear the details about what you feel inside that body and mind of yours. I also need to know exactly which prescriptions and supplements you are taking and their dosages. Your blood pressure reading and my stethoscope can only tell me so much. Simple step number two: Tell the whole story so we can provide the very best treatment. Don’t clam up with your doctor.
Q: Are there important follow up steps after the appointment?
Always. It’s actually a bit remarkable. A recent study of people discharged from an ER found that 75% of them didn’t understand the doctor’s instructions so they could take care of themselves at home. Now, an ER, or a doctor’s office, can be a distracting place, especially when we’re sick or worried. So it is understandable that patients might miss some instructions. I always repeat the plan several times before my patient leaves my office, and try to make sure they understand what’s going to happen next– exactly how to take any medication; what kind of diet to keep; what kind of specialist we are consulting, and so on. Simple step number three: Make sure you understand the plan before you leave your doctor’s office. Write stuff down. We simply don’t remember as much as we think we are going to. Keep a list of next steps and you’ll end up keeping yourself a healthier you.
Looking for a primary care/family medicine physician? Please call 1-877-40-NEWMD or visit www.bidmc.org/pcpplymouth.