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Appointments: Ask These Questions

Get the most out of your visit

A Veteran sits in a doctor’s office while speaking with a medical professional.Have you ever left your doctor's appointment and realized you forgot to mention a symptom or ask a question? Health care appointments are often shorter than we might like, but there are ways to make the most of every visit. You and your health care team can come away from each appointment feeling more satisfied by following some simple steps.

Come prepared

My HealtheVet makes it easy to come prepared for your health care appointments. Before your visit, sign in and check your prescription records online. Let your health care team know if there are changes to your medications or how 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 conveniently found in your VA Blue Button report.

Speak up

Remember, members of your health care team are your partners. Be sure to speak up during your visits to be involved in your health care decisions. Your input can make your visits much 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 provider 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, but make sure your information is up-to-date.

What to bring

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

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

Bring a written list of your questions. You might ask:

  • What can I do to stay healthy?

  • What can I do to better manage my health problems?

  • What do my symptoms mean?

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

  • What are my treatment options?

  • What will the treatments be like?

  • How will these treatments make me feel?

  • What do you recommend I do?

  • Where can I get help if I need it?

  • How can I find out more information about my condition?

Also, it's a good idea to bring a pen and pad of 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.

Get involved

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

  • Tell your health care provider 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's embarrassing. Your health care team needs to know the full picture. Share any personal concerns like sexual problems or trouble controlling your bladder or bowels. Your health care team understands those things and wants to help.

  • Be sure to ask questions. If you have trouble understanding what members of your health care team are saying, let them know. Ask for an easier explanation or for them to speak more slowly or loudly. You can even ask them to draw a picture – whatever 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 information if it's available.

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

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