for Your Appointment
Prepare, Organize, Prepare
The more information you can provide your health care team, the more you increase their ability to address you as a “whole” person -- body, mind and spirit, rather than a diagnosis alone. It is important to make your priorities and expectations clear. For example, starting the discussion with your physician by stating your personal goals for your appointment, including the main question or concerns you want to be sure to address.
To help facilitate effective communication between you and your physician consider the processes that enable you to communicate and receive information most effectively. You may want to think about the following:
- Should you bring a loved one or advocate to the appointment
- Should you use a tape recorder?
- Would it be helpful to send your list of questions to the doctor in advance?
- Would it be helpful to provide your doctor with your list of questions at the start of the appointment?
Prioritize – Generate a full list of questions but be sure to decide ahead of time which questions are most critical to you and ask the physician to address these first
Occasionally stop in your conversation to summarize what you believe are the major points
Feel free to ask your doctor to give you a moment so you can write down important information
If you are feeling overwhelmed by information, ask your physician these main questions:
What is your largest concern about my health right now?
What can we do about it / What are the options?
What do your recommend?
Ask yourself whether your physician is addressing both your questions and your feelings
If your ethnic background or cultural issues are impeding your communications or the relationship with your physician, ask if there are resources that can help
At the end of the appointment, summarize what you have heard and your understanding of the next steps
Ask the doctor for a copy of their notes or evaluation that you can take with you and share with family/friends
Ask what is the best way to keep in touch between office visits: through a nurse, via email, website or cell phone
Prior to your Appointment, Consider Your Well Being and Determine Your Concerns
Before we can communicate in a productive way with our care team, caregivers or family, we need to be self aware and clear on our beliefs, concerns, fears, needs, and preferences and how these impact our health care goals. To organize your thoughts on how you are feeling and which issues and priorities you would like to have addressed in your appointment, you can use the Health-E³ Worksheet/Preparation for Provider Visit and determine the areas you feel comfortable and areas where you have concerns. Identifying your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs will enable your health team to provide more targeted and responsive care. Organizing your thoughts and questions (as well as those of your caregivers or family members) in advance of your appointment will help alleviate some of the confusion and anxiety you may experience, especially during periods of important decision-making.
Some basic questions for your provider might include:
With my history and age, what is appropriate for me to do right now in terms of screening and prevention? Ask about screening tests and immunizations; based on your health and personal risks, your provider can develop a schedule that is best for you.
What is the best way for me to achieve and maintain a healthy weight?
I want to be more proactive and learn more about my health. Where can I look for reliable information online?
What are the risks and benefits to me, of taking this medication?
What can I do to reduce my risk of diabetes, heart disease or cancer?
It is helpful to return to the Health-E³ Worksheet/Preparation for Provider Visit every so often and do a self check-in on your overall health and priorities.
Prepare Your Responses In Advance to Likely Questions Your Medical Team Will Ask
Many people on your healthcare team will be asking you many questions (you should expect that oftentimes they will be asking the same questions over and over again.) It helps to consider these questions in advance to become more comfortable with the answers and also as a way to help highlight areas of concern.
The following questions are common ones you should be prepared to answer:
What is your medical history? (Major procedures, surgeries, conditions, illnesses…)
What is your family medical history?
What are the three most important things you want me (your physician) to know or focus on during the appointment today?
How are you feeling about your health now?
What health concerns do you have in the long term?
What are the primary symptoms/side effects you are experiencing?
What are your goals and your hopes? What is most important to you?
On a scale of 1-10, how anxious and stressed do you feel? How fearful are you?
Do you feel depressed?
If you receive a diagnosis you may think about some additional questions. For example,
What is your understanding of your condition…disease…prognosis?
Would you like to get a second opinion on your diagnosis or on your treatment plan?
What are your primary concerns and fears?
Do you have a support system?
If needed, who will be your primary caregiver?
Would you like to speak with a counselor? A social worker? Do you have specific concerns about your family? Your job? Medical costs?
Do you have any preferences in terms of your care team – gender, age, culture…
What trade offs are you willing to make / not make when it comes to treatment for example, receiving treatment in your hometown versus travel to an out of town expert?
Do you have any questions about your care plan?
How do you feel about communication and responsiveness of your team?
Does your team and your treatment/care plan align with your preferences and priorities?
What symptoms and side effects are most challenging? Are you getting the help you need to manage these?
What kinds of support services are of interest to you? Are you familiar with integrative therapies? Would you like to learn more about them? Are all of your needs getting addressed?
How can the social workers best support you at this time? Do you need assistance with insurance, your financials, help at home…?
Are you concerned about your family or caregiver? What support do you think they need?
Do you have any concerns or questions about: palliative care, discharge and returning home, home care, rehabilitation, assisted living, skilled nursing, hospice, or facing end of life…?