Get The Most Out Of A Visit To The Doctor

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doctorTo get the most out of a doctor’s visit, it’s best to write down questions in advance, speak up about concerns during an appointment, and get a recap of information before leaving the doctor’s office.

It’s easy to miss important information or forget to ask key questions during a visit to the doctor. Some people feel rushed; others feel a bit intimidated. Take control of the situation with a little preparation, recommends the February 2015 Harvard Health Letter. “In order to get the best possible outcomes, it really helps to be an active consumer,” says Dr. Karen Joynt, a health policy researcher and a cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

To prepare for a visit to the doctor, make a list of questions to ask him or her. The questions can be about something complicated, such as treatment options, or simple, such as whether to get a flu shot. Bring paper and something to write with while at the appointment.

Once the doctor is in the exam room, it’s important to share symptoms and other health concerns, even if the doctor doesn’t ask. Don’t forget to ask the questions that have been prepared. Dr. Joynt says people often want to seem cooperative and not appear pushy or ask what seem like “dumb” questions. But it’s better to be a little pushy than to not understand a treatment plan.

Dr. Joynt also recommends bringing a buddy to the appointment to pick up on instructions and other information. “It’s just so hard to keep track of all the information. Having someone who can take notes and be a scribe can be helpful, because it can be overwhelming to hear news about new diagnoses or complicated changes in medications,” says Dr. Joynt.

Read the full-length article: “Top 6 ways to get the most out of your doctor visit”

Also in the February 2015 Harvard Health Letter:

Best ways to manage stress

Foods to ward off diabetes, heart disease, and cancer

Four important hazards of heartburn medications

The Harvard Health Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $16 per year. Subscribe at or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).