Have you ever left a doctor’s appointment and remembered that you forgot to ask a crucial question? It is frustrating, but you are not alone—many of us have done that! Here are tips to help you get the most out of your next doctor’s appointment after a heart disease diagnosis.
Before Your Medical Visit
- Get a loose-leaf notebook. Use one loose-leaf notebook for doctor’s visits. If you have multiple doctors, give each doctor a separate section. Maintain a list of all doctors at the front of your notebook. This will enable you to keep track of all of the information about your illness, the papers given to you after each visit, your questions and answers all in one place. You may think you will remember all of these details, but as time goes on, you may not. It helps to bring this notebook to each medical appointment.
- Write down your questions. Before each medical appointment, write down all of your questions. No question is too silly or small to ask. Put the page with your questions at the front of that section in your loose-leaf notebook and take it to your medical appointment. This is one way to make sure all of your questions are asked and answered during your medical visit.
- Bring your blood pressure records and daily weight chart, if applicable, to your medical appointment. Keep your daily blood pressures and weights in a chart that you can take with you to your medical appointment. Many cardiologists will provide a chart for your use. Put it with your notebook before your visit.
- Bring a current medication list with you to each medical appointment. Always keep a list of your current medications in the front of your loose-leaf notebook. Put the date at the top of each medications list so you know which is current; file or destroy other lists to avoid confusion. Each list should include the name of each drug you take, the dose, and how often you take the medication. The list should include both prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications.
- Bring a friend or family member to your medical appointment. Ask a family member or friend to come to your medical appointment with you. This person can take notes during your appointment and review what was said for your understanding. This person can also prompt you to ask questions or ask additional questions during your appointment.
- Record the conversation with your doctor. If no one is available to accompany you to your medical appointment, consider recording the discussion with the doctor on your phone or handheld device. Make sure you know how to use the recording device before your appointment.
During Your Medical Visit
- Show the doctor your weight chart and blood pressure records, if applicable. Take out your weight chart and blood pressure records for the doctor to review.
- Take out your question sheet. Open up your notebook to the page of questions and go through each question with your doctor. Share your symptoms and concerns with your doctor. Ask all questions you or your family member or friend can think of.
- Review your current medications with your doctor. Make sure your doctor and you understand your current medications, dosage, when each drug is taken, and possible side effects.
- Make sure all of your questions are answered before the doctor leaves the visit. Ask the doctor any questions you may have about your medical condition such as signs and symptoms, low salt diet, or recording your weights or blood pressure. Make sure all questions are answered before the doctor leaves the exam room.
- Review what the doctor said to ensure clarification and understanding. Repeat back to the doctor your understanding of what was said at the medical visit. This may include any changes in medication, symptoms to look for, when to call the office, or keeping track of your weight or blood pressure.
After Your Medical Visit
- Schedule your next visit. Schedule your next visit before you leave the office so you will have it on your calendar.
- Put all papers in your loose-leaf notebook. File all papers in the appropriate section of your loose-leaf notebook. Put the most recent information in first so when you look at the notebook, this information appears first.
- Review your visit with your family member or friend. Review the doctor visit and any changes to your medications or additional instructions with your family member or friend to make sure you understand your medical condition.
- Keep track of your symptoms, concerns, and questions. Start a list of your questions, symptoms, or concerns. This will become your new list questions for your next medical appointment.
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