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Be Involved in Your Health Care

Take notes, ask questions - tips for being an active member of your health care team

A Veteran talking to his health care teamIt's easy to feel rushed before a doctor's appointment or unsure of the information and directions. If you use virtual appointments, you may even feel a little 'distant' from your doctor because you haven't gone into your medical center.

With a little preparation, you can get the most out of your visit. For a better appointment, follow these tips before, during, and after meeting with your doctor.

How to prepare for an appointment

Make sure you read and download your past health documents in the days before your appointment. Have them handy. Also, include your prescriptions and 'over-the-counter' medications (as well as vitamins and supplements). It is important to review them all with your doctor.

It's important to write down questions and bring them with you. These questions can cover your past and current conditions or even upcoming needs like tests or surgeries. Be sure to ask about medications or treatments you may have read about. Patients who ask questions and make sure they understand the answers tend to get more timely, accurate diagnoses and have better results.

What to do during an appointment

At your appointment, explain any symptoms you're experiencing. Throughout the conversation, offer information about your health history and past medication issues. If your doctor wants you to be tested, ask how the test or screen is done, how to get ready, and how you will receive the results.

Finally, ask about your treatment options and what to expect next.

Follow up after an appointment

One of the most important things you can do is follow your doctor's instructions. If you talked about tests or seeing a specialist, make sure you follow up. You can always send your doctor a Secure Message (sign in required) with any questions that come up afterward. Or, if it can wait until your next appointment, write it down and pin it on your fridge or your desk.

If you're unsure what your test results mean, ask your health care team to explain them via Secure Messaging.

See your VA records anytime

There are a couple of ways to download your records from My HealtheVet. One way is to download your Blue Button file. You can also download your Health Summary to see your essential health summary.

Remember: If you ever forget anything about your appointment, you can always view notes from previous visits in VA Notes at any time.

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Read More

Healthy Living: Be Involved (VA National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention)

The Doctor Will See You Now – on Your Computer Screen

Be Involved in Your Health Care: Taking Medications (Veterans Health Library)

The 10 Questions You Should Know (HHS - Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality)

Created January 12, 2021