October 31, 2008

Doing Homework Before Doctor’s Visit

A U.S. doctor advises patients can make their healthcare more effective by preparing ahead for their visits to a doctor.

Dr. Michael Pignone of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine says simply writing things down can make a doctor's visit more effective. This one step can make visits 25 percent to 50 percent more effective, he said.

"It might seem silly, but it's really helpful to write down your symptoms, complaint or problem, then summarize it into a couple of sentences," Pignone says in a statement. "Bring your list and your summary with you to the visit. This allows the doctor to quickly review your condition and ask specific questions."

Pignone also advises patients to come in with an agenda.

"Before your appointment, decide what you want from the visit," he recommends.

For instance, a patient with back pain might want to know what causes the pain as well as a treatment plan. Patients should share the agenda at the very beginning of the visit.

"It might feel funny at first, but your doctor will appreciate it," Pignone says. "Sharing this information will help you all make better decisions about treatment, make the visit more efficient, and improve the chance that your healthcare needs will be met effectively."