Everyone gets those reminder telephone calls before their appointment about what time to get there, to bring the most recent insurance card and copay, and of course the list of drugs you are taking. Those are standards for every medical appointment, but what else can you do to make the most of your time? No matter how much or how little time you have with your neurologist, once the exam door is closed you want to make the most of it.
Plain and simple, prepare for your appointment. These are the things I find useful to maximize the time:
Don’t rely on your memory – make a written list of everything you need to discuss with the doctor. And remember to take that list with you. I will often write my list, email it to myself so I can retrieve it on my smartphone in case I forget to grab the paper copy.
What should be on the list?
Spell out any new symptoms you are experiencing since your last appointment. Include any old symptoms that may have gotten worse. Your doctor should be asking that question and often we freeze in the moment or don’t remember all of them. Having them in writing solves the memory problem. I’m not suggesting full paragraphs or sentences even. A few words that remind you what the symptom is such as ‘buzzing in ears’ or ‘rushing to bathroom’ are enough to help you formulate the idea for the doctor.
If you have had serious changes in your personal or professional life, be sure to tell your doctor especially if you are experiencing new symptoms that could be stress related. The neurologist can always make referrals for other services, but only if you let them know you need assistance.
Are you taking a disease modifying therapy (DMT) and satisfied and compliant by taking the prescribed doses or injections? If not, discussing other drug options should be on your list, too. The best drug for you is the one you will take. Also write out what prescription refills you need, those are too easy to forget about until you’re home.
Ask about any test results you may not have yet seen, such as MRI or lab reports and get a copy of those for your personal records.
Next can be the challenging part – what questions do you have about MS, and in particular your MS? Write them all down, and then take a good look at this list and decide which questions are the most important ones and move them to the top of your list. Are you satisfied with this group of questions? Now cross out all but the top three questions. You know these appointments go fast and as much as your neurologist would like to hang around and answer everything, most do not have the time so it’s important to ask only a few questions and make them the ones most important to you.
If possible, take someone with you to the appointments – it is difficult to take in everything between the exam and all the questions from the doctor and from you. Having this extra person to be your ears and memory is useful.
Plan to arrive on time – yes, you probably will have to wait for the doctor anyway, but do your part and get there on time. You might be pleasantly surprised and have no wait at all.
If I could put this on a form it would look something like this
The idea of preparing for a doctor appointment works for other doctors as well and not just neurologists. The questions might be different but the concept is the same. I hope you find this useful. We can’t study for these exams but we can prepare – and by doing so it will make the most of the time in their office and show the doctor you want to be an active participant in your health care.
Wishing you well,