Making the Most of Doctor Appointments

By learning more about heart disease and heart failure, you can take a more active role in your care by asking more questions, talking about your concerns, and telling the doctor about things you've noticed. Of course, some people have trouble telling the doctor what they think. They may be worried about sounding uneducated or uninformed, or they may feel as if they're to blame for not taking better care of themselves. They may also be used to viewing doctors and other medical professionals as having all the answers. Please don't let these feelings keep you from talking to your doctor about your health. Your doctor needs this information in order to pick the best plan of treatment for you. The doctor needs your help to learn what is working (or not working) for you at home. There are certain things you should be sure to tell him or her to make the most of your appointment, like:

  • Keep a notebook. This will make it easier to report any changes you've noted (such as swelling, weight gain and shortness of breath), when the changes occurred, what you did and if it worked. The more precise your observations, the more helpful they'll be to the doctor.
  • Prepare a list of questions in advance. Spend some time brainstorming a list of questions. Write them down, leaving spaces for the answers.Take notes during the visit. Write down key information so you can review it later - or ask if you may tape-record your discussion.
  • If necessary, slow down the pace. Don't be embarrassed to slow down the conversation if you're feeling overwhelmed. If you don't understand a word or idea, ask for an explanation.
  • Never withhold information. Something you think is minor could affect treatment. Alternatively, something you think is serious might be minor and easily remedied. Also, be honest about whether you're following the doctor's recommendations about diet, exercise, lifestyle and taking medications. If not, the doctor might be able to help.
  • Share information about all current medications, including over-the-counter drugs, and any problems with them.
  • Discuss costs and insurance issues frankly. The doctor may suggest a treatment that isn't covered fully by a given health plan. Ask about reimbursement issues when considering different options.
  • Don't leave until you understand all the doctor's instructions, especially those about medications. Know which drugs need to be taken when, how often they should be taken and in what amount. Ask about any side effects that may occur, and what can be done about them.
  • Don't hesitate to call the office if something comes to mind later. If you still have questions or aren't sure about your treatment and medications, call to get the information you need.