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Health news and blog

    Primary care

    How To Get The Most Out of Every Doctor Visit

    Your annual doctor visit should be more than a checkup — it should be a conversation. Here’s how to get the dialogue going.

    Doctor Visit Tips

    You’ve scheduled your annual checkup (good for you!). Now it’s time to put together a list of questions for your doc to ensure you make the most of your time together.

    The doctor and patient relationship has changed significantly over the years, albeit for the better. Doctors don’t want to just check your vital signs and send you on your way. They want to know more about you and your health goals so they can help you accomplish them. Yet, the reality is doctors are busy people. So we talked to Kathy Crabtree, MD, Assistant Chief Medical Officer at Lutheran Medical Center, to find out some questions that can help you get that conversation started and make it super productive.

    What do those numbers really mean and am I on target for someone my age and health status?

    • 120/80. Often times, when we hear that blood pressure number, you’re left wondering if it’s good or bad. Or you think, should I be worried or not? It’s happened to most of us who don’t live and breathe medicine all day long. Someone takes our blood pressure, tells us the number, jots it down in our chart and we’re left in the dark as to what it really means. Be sure to ask your care provider if your numbers are healthy. And if they’re not, be sure to find out measures you can take to help get them into the right range for you.

    Are there any alternative treatments I should consider?

    • The days of docs writing prescriptions for everything that ails you are long gone. As they should be because today there are so many approaches and opinions to being healthy. From acupuncture and massage to yoga and nutritional changes, integrated, functional medicine is absolutely a path that can lead to better health. So be sure to ask your doctor if there’s another modification you can make that might take the place of a certain medication. You never know until you ask!

    What prevention screenings should be on my radar?

    • As you age, there are recommended tests and screenings you should get at certain times in your life. Yet, the standard guidelines are often changing and don’t always apply to everyone, especially if you have family history of a certain disease or cancer. So be sure to ask your provider what screenings you should schedule based on your history and when. After all, prevention is the best medicine.

    What is the best way for us to communicate?

    • Knowing that communication is key, you should ask your provider the best way to get in touch if you have questions or concerns. Some doctors prefer email while others want to talk over the phone or even video chat. Many practices use MyChart, a patient portal that gives you online access to your medical information while also allowing you to message your doctor for nonurgent issues. Check with your provider to find out the best way to stay in touch and stay on top of your health.

    How should I be caring for my mental health?

    • Admittedly, mental health is an under-addressed issue in the medical community. It’s going to take patients being proactive about their emotional well-being to change this. Whether you have questions about anxiety, depression, addiction or just want to know more about changing negative patterns, your doctor is a great resource. Not to worry, if your primary care doctor isn’t the right one to provide the support you need, he or she can connect you with someone who can.

    We can’t stress enough how important it is to open the lines of communication with your doctor or care provider. It’s one of the best ways to build the kind of relationship where you feel comfortable asking questions, even the hard or embarrassing ones. Your doctor is on your team. He or she wants the very best for you and can’t provide the right kind of care if you don’t start a healthy conversation. So ask away, your doctor is all ears!

    Schedule an in-person or virtual appointment with a primary care doctor here.