So you’re on your way to the doctor. It’s either time for the annual physical exam, the regular monthly or quarterly visit, or you have a much more immediate problem. You’ve brought all the data that a doctor visit calls for, beginning with that all-important insurance info and whatever other records experience has taught you to bring.
In the dark ages of our youth, we didn’t normally see a doctor unless we were sick. Sicker than something that could be treated by Vicks VapoRub, Dr. Caldwell’s Syrup of Pepsin or a puff of warm smoke into an aching ear.
In those days, a well child’s trip to the doctor meant a big, dull needle thrust into your tender deltoid for one of the few inoculations then available. Mom drew on a wealth of traditional remedies and family folklore.
Nowadays, regular appointments are on every family’s calendar. We well-seasoned folks know we’re subject to a few routine procedures – weight, temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen, etc., followed by a question-and-answer session.
Don’t underestimate the value of that Q&A. It may confirm or reject a diagnosis and might reveal conditions that the physician’s expensive machines haven’t recognized.
The doctor usually gets first chance at the questions. Now it’s your turn.
If you pass up the opportunity to ask right then, face to face with authority, you are not getting the full value of your visit.
Take medications, for example. Suppose you’ve been taking a whole bouquet of prescription meds “forever.” Could you – should you – eliminate one or two from than handful? Ask!
And about today’s new prescription: Exactly what does it do? When do I take it? With or without food? How long before I can tell whether or not it’s working? Based on my medical history, should I expect certain side effects? Could I, maybe, start with a sample, just in case? And always, is there a generic version for this solid-gold Rx?
Your regular physician has your records at hand, probably on that ever-present laptop. Even if it’s your first visit to a specialist, your medical history can be as close as a click, shared via congenial computers. Although known allergies are listed, unfamiliar symptoms may have presented. Be prepared to recall anything unusual you’ve eaten or encountered.
There’s no reason to feel intimidated in the august doctoral presence. And, trust me, he or she will welcome your questions and gain new respect from your asking them.
Just one final bit of advice: Write down those questions as they occur to you. Then remember to bring that note with you.