Doctor Visits: Be Prepared!

Summer 2000 CSANews Issue 35  |  Posted date : Mar 05, 2007.Back to list

How many times have you walked out of your doctor's office...without getting the answers you went in for? You're not alone ­ it happens to everyone, of every age.

The best way to ensure that you make the most of your visit to the doctor or pharmacist is to think like a boy scout, and "Be Prepared." In the weeks preceding your visit, make a list of the symptoms you have been experiencing and any questions you'd like answered. Bring a pen and paper with you to your appointment, to record the answers given ­ often, medical terms are bewildering, and taking notes will alleviate any confusion later on.

When being prescribed a new medication, there are certain questions ­ and answers ­ that should be discussed. Ask your physician for its name, exactly why it is being given, and what the desired effect will be. If there are possible side effects, ask your doctor to fully explain them ­ as well as what reactions should be reported immediately. You may also want to ask if there are alternatives to medication.

When being given a medication for the first time, ask if you have been given the lowest possible dose, while still achieving the desired effect. Often, doctors have drug samples in their office, so ask for one to test for sensitivities before you fill the prescription. Inquire if the prescription you've been given is covered by your provincial drug plan and, if not, whether or not there's a generic equivalent on the market.

Prepare a list of all medications you are currently taking, including over-the-counter drugs (don't forget vitamins, antacids and pain relievers) and show it to your doctor or pharmacist. Ask if there are any on your list that you should avoid taking at the same time as your medication ­ or avoid taking at all.

Once you've got your prescription in hand, you should also have a series of questions ready for your pharmacist. Ask when the medication should be taken ­ before, with, after or between meals? At bedtime or as needed? Some medications should not be taken with specific foods ­ milk, being a prime example.

For those with arthritis, the child-proof lids on most prescription bottles are a never-ending source of discomfort. When having your prescription filled, ask your pharmacist for a container that is easy to open. Remember that if you have children visiting your home, you must keep these, and any other medications, out of reach.

If you find that you're having trouble remembering whether you've taken your medication, visit your pharmacy for a small, inexpensive pill organizer.

These are divided into compartments for each day of the week (and often, three compartments per day). One glance, and you'll know whether or not you've taken your pills. Use some foresight...while picking up your prescription, ask what should be done in the event that you miss taking a dose.

The main thing to remember is that it is your RIGHT to have these questions answered, and you should not feel intimidated or hurried in any way. If you're still concerned that you might forget something, bring someone with you to your appointment. It's your health...take care of it!