Is the doctor's office convenient?
Where is the doctor's office located?
Is parking available nearby? What is the cost?
Is the office on a bus or subway line?
Does the building have an elevator? Ramps for a wheelchair? Adequate
Do I Begin?
With a New Doctor
Your first meeting
is the best time to begin communicating positively with your new doctor.
When you see the doctor and office staff, introduce yourself and let
them know how you like to be addressed. The first few appointments
with your new doctor also are the best times to:
basics of the office--Ask the office staff how the office runs.
Learn what days are busiest and what times are best to call. Ask what
to do if there is an emergency, or when the office is closed.
medical history--Tell the doctor about your illnesses or operations,
medical conditions that run in your family, and other doctors you
see. You may want to ask for a copy of the medical history form before
your visit so you have all the time and information you need to complete
it. Your new doctor may ask you to sign a medical release form to
get copies of your medical records from doctors you have had before.
Be prepared to give the new doctor your former doctors' names and
addresses, especially if they are in a different city.
about your medications--Many people take several medicines. It
is possible for medicines to interact, causing unpleasant and sometimes
dangerous side effects. Your doctor needs to know about ALL of the medicines
you take, including over-the-counter (non-prescription) drugs, so bring
everything with you to your fist visit, including eye drops, vitamins, and
laxatives. Tell the doctor how often you take each and describe any drug
allergies or reactions you have had and which medications work best for
you. Be sure your doctor has the phone number of your regular drug store.
doctor about your habits--To provide the best care, your doctor must
understand you as a person and know what your life is like. The doctor
may ask about where you live, what you eat, how you sleep, what you do
each day, what activities you enjoy, your sex life, and if you smoke or
drink. Be open and honest with your doctor. It will help him or her to
understand your medical conditions fully and recommend the best treatment
choices for you.
Getting Started With a New Doctor
the basics of how the office runs.
your medical history.
information about your medications.
the doctor about your habits.
Questions to ask your doctor about prevention:
Should I get a flue shot, pneumonia shot, and/or other immunizations?
How often should I have a breast or prostate examination?
Would changing my diet or exercise habits help me avoid specific
A symptom is evidence of a disease or disorder in the
body. Examples of symptoms include pain, fever, unexplained weight
loss or gain, or disrupted sleep.
Should I Say?
your health means sharing information about how you feel both physically
and emotionally. Knowing how to describe your symptoms, discuss treatments,
and talk with specialists will help you become a partner in your health
care. Here are some issues that may be important to you when you talk
with your doctor.
Disease and Disability
preventing disease in older people received little attention. But
things are changing. It's never too late to stop smoking, improve
your diet, or start exercising. Getting regular checkups and seeing
other health professionals such as dentists and eye specialists help
promote good health. Even people who have chronic diseases, like arthritis
or diabetes, can prevent further disability and,in some cases, control
the progress of the disease.
If a certain
disease or health condition runs in your family, ask your doctor if
there are steps you can take to help prevent it. If you have a chronic
condition, ask how you can manage it and if there are things you can
do to prevent it from getting worse. If you want to discuss health
and disease prevention with your doctor, say so when you make your
next appointment. This lets the doctor plan to spend more time with
you as well as to prepare for the discussion.
It is very important
for you to be clear and concise when describing your symptoms. Your
description helps the doctor identify the problem. A physical exam
and medical tests provide valuable information, but it is your symptoms
that point the doctor in the right direction.
Tell the doctor
when your symptoms started, what time of day they happen, how long
they last (seconds? days?), or how often they occur, if they seem
to be getting worse or better, and if they keep you from going out
or doing your usual activities. Take the time to make some notes
about your symptoms before you call or visit the doctor. Concern
about your symptoms is not a sign of weakness. It is not necessarily
complaining to be honest about what you are experiencing.
More About Medical Tests
need to do blood tests, x-rays, or other procedures to find out what
is wrong or to learn more about your medical condition. Some tests,
such as Pap smears, mammograms, glaucoma tests, and screening for
prostate and colorectal cancer, are done on a regular basis to check
for hidden medical problems.
a medical test, ask your doctor to explain why it is important and
what it will cost, and, if possible, to give you something to read
about it. Ask how long the results of the test will take to come
When the results
are ready, make sure the doctor tells you what they are and explains
what they mean. You may want to ask your doctor for a written copy
of the test results. If the test is done by a specialist, ask to
have the results sent to your primary doctor.
to ask yourself
about your symptoms:
What exactly are my symptoms?
Are the symptoms constant? If not, when do I experience them?
Do the symptoms affect my daily activities? Which ones? How?
to ask your doctor about medical tests:
What will we know after the test?
How will I find out the results? How long will it take to get the
What steps does the test involve? How should I get ready?
Are there any dangers or side effects?
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