Planning for Your Annual Exam
Your physician asks you if you have any questions. You quickly reply, “No,” and your appointment wraps up. When you’re halfway home, a question about a medication pops into your head.
“Just as physicians prepare to see our patients by reviewing their medical history, it’s equally as important for patients to prepare to see their physicians,” says Northwestern Medicine Family Practice Physician Pooja S. DeWilde, DO. “It’s the best way to get the most out of your care.”
Here are Dr. DeWilde’s tips for preparing for a doctor’s appointment:
- Bring an updated list of your prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements. If you’re unsure about any of them, consider bringing them with you to show your physician.
- Bring a list of questions and concerns that have cropped up since your last visit. Put the most concerning items at the top of the list and discuss them first. Note symptoms, what you were doing before they began, when they started and how long they lasted.
- If possible and if you feel comfortable with it, bring a trusted family member or friend to your appointment. Talk about your medical concerns with them ahead of time so that they can remind you to bring something up if you forget. They can also take notes and help you remember what your physician said after you leave the office.
- Bring glasses, hearing aids and any other health-related devices you use.
- Show up on time so that you can complete necessary paperwork.
- Be honest. Your physician is your number one partner in care, but they can’t know what you don’t share with them. Personal history is very important for your physician to know.
- Bring your family health history, including family members’ names, their relationships to you and their current ages (or age of death). In addition to which conditions they may have or have had, the record should also include the age of onset. Provide history for first-degree (parent, sibling or children) and second-degree (grandparents, aunts, uncles, half-siblings, nephews and nieces) relatives. Download a family history worksheet to complete in advance of an appointment here.
- Take notes.
- Remember to ask questions. Talk through treatment options with your physician. If you are not aligned with your physician’s recommendations, tell them why. Maybe you will have a hard time getting to an appointment. Maybe the prescription they recommended is too expensive. Maybe you need a referral to another healthcare professional. These are all good things to discuss with your physician.
- Understand how to communicate with your physician after you leave the office. Ask them what to do if you have questions after the appointment. At Northwestern Medicine, NM MyChart and the MyNM app allow patients to communicate with their physician via online portal.