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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 09/13/05
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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UC HEALTH LINE: Eight Tips for Healthier Check-Ups

Patients often leave their doctor’s office realizing they forgot to ask an important question, or still don’t fully understand what their doctor told them.

Manoj Singh, MD, a family medicine physician at UC, understands that communicating with your doctor can sometimes be a problem—especially since many of us are too embarrassed to say so.

But telling your doctor what’s worrying you, and fully understanding his or her advice, doesn’t have to be a problem, or even difficult.

Take these eight tips from Dr. Singh about what you can do before and after appointments to make your next doctor visit more pleasant and even more productive.

Make lists.

“Patients should make lists,” says Dr. Singh. “It’s easy to forget things once you’re called into the examination room.”

Bring medications.

Many patients see more than one doctor and take multiple medications that may interact with one another or cause side effects.

“Patient safety is always a primary concern,” says Dr. Singh. “We need to know what medications have been prescribed by other specialists, so we’re not adding drugs to the mix that may interact with one another in a dangerous way.”

Bring a pal.

Loved ones are very good listeners at the doctor’s office, says Dr. Singh. Friends and relatives often think of questions that patients may be reluctant to ask. They also act as a second set of ears to help remember everything that was said once the appointment is over.

Do your research.

“It doesn’t hurt to go online before an appointment to see what health Web sites have to say about certain symptoms, medical condition or medications,” adds Dr. Singh. “The Internet, with many reputable health-care sites, has become an amazing resource for patients. Just be sure to always consult with a physician about what you learn.”

Be on time.

If you are late for your appointment, you doctor has less time to spend with you.

“When I advise people to be on time, they often make wisecracks about the doctor always being late,” says Dr. Singh. “That may be true, but if your appointment is at 3 p.m. and you don’t show up until 3:15 p.m., you’ll cut into the next patient’s appointment.”

This, he says, makes your doctor more rushed as he tries to keep from falling further behind. Instead of arriving late, Dr. Singh suggests arriving a little early, leaving time to find parking and the office.

Ask questions and take notes.

If your doctor uses language you don’t understand, don’t just sit there quietly.

“Whenever something doesn’t seem clear to you, you should ask questions,” says Dr. Singh. “Whether it’s the diagnosis, treatment or follow-up, make sure you understand what’s going on. Otherwise there’s a good chance something will go wrong.”

Research has shown that patients forget almost 30 percent of what they were told as soon as they leave the office, and another 30 percent over the next several weeks. When you get explanations and important numbers, Dr. Singh says, take notes.

“Take a pad and pen with you to the office and make notes of whatever you think is important. I would suggest noting your blood pressure, weight, diagnosis, changes in medications, tests that have been ordered and when your next appointment is. You’ll be less likely to forget if you have notes you can review whenever you need to.”

Don’t be embarrassed.

Your doctor is trained to respond to your symptoms or concerns with professionalism and understanding. You can be sure there’s little he hasn’t heard or seen before, so there’s no need at all to feel embarrassed or even shy.

“Your doctor wants to help you,” Dr. Singh says, “but won’t be able to unless you’re honest and provide all the details.”

If you are simply too embarrassed to say things out loud, Dr. Singh suggests writing symptoms down  before your appointment, or ask a close friend or relative along to give you confidence.

Be honest.

When your doctor asks you whether you’re still smoking or taking medications regularly, be honest.

“You may get a lecture when you tell the truth,” he says, “but lying to your doctor hurts your health and makes it more difficult for him to treat you properly.

For more information on this and other health-care issues, visit NetWellness at www.netwellness.org. A nonprofit health information Web site, NetWellness is provided as a public service by the University of Cincinnati, Case Western Reserve University and Ohio State University.

“UC Health Line” provides timely health information and is distributed every Tuesday by the UC Academic Health Center Public Relations and Communications Office.


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