Here's how to get the most out of your doctor's appointment : Life Kit Ever leave the doctor's office confused or with unanswered questions? Talking to doctors and other medical professionals can be hard — whether they're good at their jobs or not. We'll give you the tools to get more out of your appointments. We'll talk about how to choose a provider, prepare for your visit, ask the right questions, and get your provider's attention if they're not hearing you.

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Do you freeze up in front of your doctor? Here's how to talk to your physician

Do you freeze up in front of your doctor? Here's how to talk to your physician

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Watch this video for tips on talking to your doctor — including what information to bring to an appointment and what follow-up questions to ask after a diagnosis.

When you're sitting on an exam table wearing a paper gown, it's easy to forget all the questions that brought you in to see the doctor in the first place. Maybe you thought your physician would ask you about something, but they didn't, so you weren't sure if you should bring it up. Or a symptom felt like a big deal to you, but they brushed it off.

"I think most patients feel that the doctor is all-knowing, and that in the medical encounter or the relationship, that they are powerless," says Dr. Jennifer Mieres, professor of cardiology at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and the chief Diversity and Inclusion officer at Northwell Health.

But your doctor can't read your mind. "I always say I didn't have ESP to figure out what was going on," says Mieres. "This is a partnership." She says ideally, doctors and patients should work together as "co-detectives."

And that detective work will be easier for you and your doctor if you come to your appointment ready. "Prepare as if you're going to your accountant getting ready for taxes," she says. "You don't show up without receipts."

Here are a few ways Dr. Mieres says you can prep for an appointment

  • Keep a log book of symptoms, including details like:
    • When your symptoms began 
    • What were you doing when they started 
    • How long they have persisted 
    • What makes them worse 
    • The impact they're having on your life (for instance, it hurts when you bend down to tie your shoes)
  • Know and share your family's health history 
  • Keep track of your vitals like blood pressure 
  • If there's something you know you'd like to discuss at your appointment, send a portal message to your doctor in advance so they're prepared

If you feel dismissed by your doctor, Mieres says that's a warning sign and a signal to hit the pause button and take control. Some helpful phrases in those moments: "This is limiting my life," and "I think that there's something going on and I'm having a hard time putting it together. I need your help."

You can also ask for a referral to see another specialist and bring a friend or family member to your next appointment to ask questions or take notes.

To see Dr. Jennifer Mieres and Life Kit host Marielle Segarra act out a conversation between a doctor and a patient, along with pop-up notations about how to make the most of a conversation with your doctor, watch the video at the top of the page or on YouTube or listen to the podcast episode on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

This video was hosted by Marielle Segarra; directed by Iman Young; produced by Iman Young, Sylvie Douglis and Beck Harlan; edited by Christina Shaman; filmed by Nickolai Hammar, Christina Shaman and Iman Young, and animated by Kaz Fantone and Jackie Lay. Audio engineering support comes from Neal Rauch. Supervising editors are Meghan Keane and Nick Michael.

The audio portion of this episode was produced by Sylvie Douglis. The story was adapted for digital by Beck Harlan and edited by Meghan Keane.

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