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Come Prepared: Talk to Your Doc

Bring Questions, Speak Up, Be Involved

Two providers talking in clinic hallway

Health care appointments are usually shorter than we might like, but there are ways to make the most of every visit. You, your health care providers (the doctors, nurses, therapists, clinicians) and other members of the health care team can come away from each visit feeling more satisfied by following some simple steps.

There are two basic ways to make the most of your visit. First, come prepared. My HealtheVet makes this easier. Before your visit, check your prescription records online. Let your health care team know if there are changes to your medications or in the way that you have been taking them. You can also review notes from previous visits with your health care team and recent lab test results. These are easily found in your VA Blue Button report.

Second, at your visit, speak up and actually talk with your health care team as your partners. They are here to help you with your health and care. This means that you need to be involved in your health care and can do things to make your visits more productive. For example, much of the information needed to make a diagnosis is based on your description of symptoms, recent changes, and your health history. Be sure to share this information with your health care team during your visit. Download and print out your VA Blue Button report from My HealtheVet and take it with you to your appointment. You can use it as a reference. Make sure your information is up-to-date

Here are some suggestions that can help:

Be sure to bring all the medications you are taking in their original labeled containers, including any over-the-counter medicines or herbal products. Be prepared to describe exactly when, how, and how often you take each of these, and any side effects you have noticed.

Bring a written list of changes in your health. Include symptoms, any medical history or other information you think might be helpful for your health care provider to know.

Bring a written list of your questions. Common questions include:

  • What is wrong with me?

  • What is the cause, or why is this happening to me?

  • What treatments will help me?

  • What will the treatments be like?

  • What can I expect to happen to me?

  • What do you recommend I do?

  • Where can I get help if I need it?

Bring pen and paper so you can write down the answers to your questions.

You may want to bring a friend or family member with you to help you remember the answers to your questions or other details of the visit.

Talking with Your Health Care Provider

Speak up! Do not be afraid to ask questions of your provider or others on your health care team; they are there to help you and they appreciate you being involved in your care.

  • Tell your healthcare provider right up front what you want to get done at this visit.

  • Bring a written list.

  • Early in your visit, describe any pain, symptoms, or side-effects you have been having.

  • Talk about your concerns and worries you have about your health. Don't wait until the end of the visit to mention important concerns or symptoms.

Tell the truth, even if it is embarrassing. Your health care team needs to know the full picture. Tell your provider even about any personal concerns like sexual problems or trouble controlling your bladder or bowels. Your health care team understands those things and is there to help.

  • Be clear and to the point; avoid extra chatter about things not related to your health and care that can use up the valuable time.

  • Be sure to ask questions. If you have trouble understanding what members of your health care team says, ask for a simpler explanation, to speak more slowly, speak louder or softer, draw a picture, or whatever else would help you understand.

  • Ask about your treatment or care plan so you understand it, know what to expect, and what the next steps are.

  • Ask for written instructions and/or information if it is available.

Remember: about five days after your visit, you can logon to My HealtheVet and read your provider's visit notes using your Blue Button report. If you have any questions or concerns, you can easily send a Secure Message to your health care team.

Being actively involved in your health care in all these ways helps you and your health care provider and team act as partners. They are all working together to improve your health and keep you healthy. Your health may be your most valuable asset, so be sure to protect it. You are worth it!

Read More

VA Notes: Better Understanding, Better Care 

Be Involved in Your Health Care (Veterans Health Library)

Build your question list (HHS/AHRQ)

Updated January 02, 2018