An annual wellness appointment is a valuable opportunity to talk with your physician about your health care, including preventive measures, screenings and tests to monitor your health, symptoms you may be experiencing, a review of prescriptions, possible referrals to specialists and a physical exam. That's a lot of ground to cover, which is why it's important to come to the appointment prepared.
"Taking the time to get organized before the doctor's visit will make that appointment more productive--you can make the most of your time with your physician by focusing on the points you want to communicate and providing the doctor with any needed background information," says Christopher Celio, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician and the medical director of DRIVE Wellness at Western Digital Corp., a collaborative initiative between Western Digital Corp. and our experts at Providence St. Joseph Health.
"Knowing ahead of time what you want to cover ensures you won't forget anything important, such as a question you want answered or a refill you need for a prescription."
Here's what Dr. Celio recommends you bring to your next appointment:
1. A family health history. "Knowing the genetic background of your family members--parents, grandparents and siblings, for starters--can help your physician plan screenings for any conditions that pose increased risk for you," Dr. Celio says. "The doctor can also keep an eye out for certain symptoms or recommend preventive solutions--if there is a history of diabetes in your family, for instance, he may suggest a high-fiber, low sugar diet to help you stave off the disease." The Surgeon General offers an online tool for creating and maintaining a family health history; to learn more, click here.
2. A summary of your current health status. "It's important for your doctor to know anything special you're doing to maintain your health," Dr. Celio says. "Draw up a list of prescriptions--and why you take the medications. You should also include any natural or homeopathic treatments you take. And jot down anything else out of the ordinary. Are you on a vegan diet? Do you have a specialized exercise program, such as weightlifting? This information can give your doctor a fuller picture of your lifestyle choices as they relate to your health."
3. A list of questions for the doctor. If there are things on your mind, write them down so you don't forget to ask the doctor about them during your appointment.
4. A notebook or your smartphone. You took the time to write down your questions for the doctor, so don't forget to record the answers. "The doctor can impart a lot of information, and you don't want to get home and realize you can't remember what he said to do about your nagging cough or the steps to lower your blood pressure," Dr. Celio says. "You can take notes with pen and paper, or install an app on your phone or tablet that allows you to input the information digitally. Some doctors are OK with you recording the conversation with your smartphone, so ask if that's an option."
5. A health care file. "For easy access, you should put all your pertinent health information, such as test results, notes from previous doctor visits, and diagnoses and treatment plans for any illnesses, in one place, such as a notebook," Dr. Celio says. "Then you bring that to your appointments in case you need to refer to it."
6. Insurance cards and form of payment. It's wise to always have your insurance information on hand, especially if you've moved or changed insurance companies since your last visit. When you set up the appointment, confirm what co-pay will be needed, if any, and what forms of payment the doctor's office accepts.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.