After sustaining a spinal cord injury, your life might include multiple doctors appointments. That can diminish with time, but when the injury is new, you may find yourself making the rounds to a variety of specialists, frequently.
Because of this, remembering what each doctor does and what they have said can be confusing. You may forget what questions you need to ask at what appointment. Sometimes, especially at first, it is helpful to bring a caregiver with you to help remember your questions and information and help manage your appointments. But eventually, you will want to take on most of the responsibility. Here are some tips on what to do before, during, and after a visit to get the most out of your appointment.
Before The Appointment
Keep a list of questions that you think of in between your appointments. Often we think of important questions at inconvenient times, then forget them as soon as we walk through the doctor’s office door.
Before going to your appointment, review your list of questions to see which ones are appropriate for that particular specialist. Do any of them bring further questions to mind? Then write down on a separate sheet of paper all the questions that are best asked at your upcoming appointment. You can leave your master list at home and bring the new sheet with you.
If you want to, ask a caregiver, family member, or friend to take you to the appointment. Make sure you give them enough notice to plan their schedule accordingly. Asking last minute decreases the chance they will be able to come. Also, if you feel comfortable, ask them to go back with you and participate in the appointment as an extra set of eyes and ears.
During the Appointment
During the appointment, you should take notes. Bring paper and pen, or use an app on your phone. If you find it too difficult to take notes while trying to converse with your doctor, then you should bring someone with you and ask them to take the notes while you ask the questions.
Once you’ve had all of your questions answered for that day, ask your doctor how they prefer to be contacted between visits. It’s likely you will have more questions later that you don’t want to save until your next appointment. Some doctors have an online system where patients can email them or send a message to the nurse. Other doctors may prefer you just call the office.
If you anticipate a long wait, or going to the office makes you nervous, take a good book with you to read. Many people also use their phones for reading or surfing the internet, but remember to put it away and turn off the ringer when the doctor comes in so you can give him or her your full and undivided attention.
If your doctor’s office does have an online medical record system, learn how to use it. This can make it more convenient to keep track of appointments and test results. It can also help you remember what your treatment plan was, or to manage medications.
One of the most important things to do after an appointment is, simply, to follow the doctor’s orders. If you’ve been given instructions on exercise, medication, or nutrition, follow them exactly as prescribed. If you do not do what your doctor says, that makes it a lot harder to bring up more problems with him in the future.
And sometimes being non-compliant can lead to problems with insurance as well. They often require patients to follow a certain order of treatments before allowing them to move on to the next possible solution.
Following these tips will help you get the most out of every doctor’s appointment. With a little practice and some planning, you will soon be a pro at managing your own health!
Author: Annie Beth Donahue is a professional writer with a health and disability focus.