Do you feel that you make the most of your limited time with your primary care physician? Whether you see them once a year during your annual check-up or more often to manage a chronic condition, it’s a question you might want to ask yourself.
Your visits to your doctor are your chance to identify good health habits, change bad ones, and investigate your doctor’s expertise for new information that can keep you up on or set you on the right road to healthier living.
To get the most out of the time you spend with your health care provider, doctors most often recommend that you make a list of topics you might want – or should – discuss, including any new test results, especially if you are a new patient.
A simple question will most often make you feel better, allow you to take better care of yourself, or sometimes may, in fact, save your life. The questions below will help you get started.
· How can I reduce or stop taking some of my medications?
Your primary care physician may not be as enthusiastic about a specific medication as you might imagine, so the next time you visit your doctor, bring a full list of all of the medications that you are taking (both over-the-counter and prescribed) for a re-evaluation of their necessity. Even if you should not stop taking a particular medication, you might be able to reduce its dosage. Also, doctors quite often say that you should not be shy about asking if there are less expensive alternatives to your current treatment regime.
Warning: Do not stop taking a prescribed medication without first consulting with your physician. Some medications can be dangerous to stop taking abruptly and may need to be tapered off of. Make absolutely sure that you first talk to your doctor before making any changes to your medications.
· Am I up to date on my routine health maintenance?
The medical equivalent of rotating your tires and changing your oil is to keep up-to-date on vaccines and recommended screenings, including mammograms and colonoscopies, as well as routine blood panels to measure your cholesterol and glucose levels.
By keeping up to date on routine health maintenance appropriate to your age, gender and health status, you can take full advantage of modern medicine and its ability to detect disease or risk factors for disease early. This should give you a jump-start on any eventual successful treatment.
· What else could I be doing to stay healthy and prevent disease?
It is no secret that quite often a proper diet, routine exercise and other lifestyle choices can make a significant impact in preventing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and even certain types of cancer. So it is recommended that you do not hesitate to ask your doctor about your body-mass index (BMI), alcohol consumption and other lifestyle factors, including interpersonal relationship issues which can ultimately affect your physical and mental health and happiness.
· Are the supplements that I am taking worthwhile?
Natural biochemistry has inspired many life-improving, even life-saving, compounds and substances, but please remember that some health products and supplements marketed as “natural” are not subject to the same rigorous scientific scrutiny as prescription medications – either for their safety or their effectiveness.
· What is next?
Show up to your doctor’s appointment with questions. You might just leave with a plan of action.
Primary care physicians answer thousands of questions from patients during their visits, but, quite often, one question stands out for its ability to focus on the issues that matter most: “What’s next?”
Patients should leave their doctor’s office with an action plan for what they need to do, work on, or be aware of between visits to improve their health. For every diagnosis, you should know what is next in your treatment plan; how to monitor your symptoms or side effects, especially with new medications, and when you should return for a follow up visit.
Asking the right questions and providing detailed information to your doctor and other care providers can dramatically improve your overall health care experience.