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Use Doctor Visits Wisely

Introductory image: Stephanie Hamm poses with two March for Marrow medalists.

While not always easy - asking questions until you get answers you understand is a central part of becoming an empowered patient. Here are some suggestions for getting the most out of of every doctor visit.

Doctors have limited time each patient. And office visits can run shorter than you hope. To be a strong advocate for yourself, you'll want to do some work in advance. Try these tips:

  1. Set an agenda for the visit. Ask yourself, "What do I want to get out of this visit?" Write down the top three things you want to discuss. Focusing on your agenda will help you make the most of your time.
  2. Ask for the time you need. When you make an appointment, let the staff know if you have special concerns that might require a little extra time with your doctor. If, after your appointment, you still need more time, find out how you can call or email your doctor with concerns.
  3. Do your homework. Learn all you can about your condition and the available treatments.
  4. Bring information with you. Bring your medical information to the visit. This information should include:
    • A list of questions in priority order. Start with this list Questions to Ask Your Healthcare Team.
    • All current and past illnesses, as well as any chronic conditions you may have
    • A list of prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements you have used
    • Notes on symptoms and side effects you are having
    • Test results
    • Transfusion records
  5. Ask Questions, Get Answers. Ask the questions you need answers to and keep asking until you get a response you understand. Let your doctor know if the information is confusing or if there is anything you don't understand. Don't worry about offending your doctor or other healthcare provider. Asking questions shows healthcare providers you care, are actively involved in your own care, and want to stay informed.
  6. Bring a member of your personal support team. Going to the doctor can be overwhelming. Asking a family member or friend to come along can help. This person can help you ask questions, write down answers, and ensure you get answers you understand.
  7. Take Careful Notes. After the visit is over, it may be hard to recall exactly what your provider said. Take notes, ask a family member or friend to take notes, or use an audio recorder. Keep these notes with your medical information.

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