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Release Date: 6/25/2012

How to make the most of your doctor's visit

Dr. Beth Sjoblom, an internal medicine specialist who is board-certified in geriatrics, is a member of St. Anthony's Physician Organization.

Dr. Beth Sjoblom, an internal medicine specialist who is board-certified in geriatrics, is a member of St. Anthony's Physician Organization.

Whether it’s for a routine “wellness check” or a specific health complaint, a visit to your doctor’s office can be intimidating.

Perhaps your hearing isn’t what it used to be, and you’re afraid you’ll miss some of the doctor’s instructions. Maybe your memory isn’t what it used to be, and you’re afraid you’ll forget to mention something important. You know the doctor is busy; so you try to speak quickly, so you don’t take up too much of her time.  You may even decide that some of your complaints really aren’t important enough to mention.

Please mention all of your signs and symptoms. That specific problem may be integral to the diagnosis.

Here are some tips to make sure you get the most out of your doctor’s visit:

  • Before your visit, write down the things you want to discuss, in order of importance. Understand that it may not be possible to address all issues at one visit.
  • List any symptoms you’ve experienced and when they occurred. Keeping a journal can be very helpful.
  • List all prescription medicines, over-the-counter medications and vitamin or herbal supplements you take, including amount and frequency of dosage.
  • If it’s your first visit, write down your personal and family health history. Be sure to include any allergies and types and dates of immunizations.
  • If you’re worried about understanding or remembering the doctor’s instructions, write them down, ask for them in writing or take someone with you to take notes for you. Let the doctor know if you don’t understand something or need to have it repeated. 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, options, risks, prognosis or medications. You need to know what’s happening now and what you can expect to happen in the future.
  • Be completely honest regarding any lifestyle issues (smoking, drinking, drugs, sexual history), to avoid the risk of misdiagnosis or of a bad reaction to a prescribed medication.
  • Don’t feel that you need to rush through your conversation with the doctor; but don’t tell long stories or go into great detail about things that are not related to the reason for your visit. While your doctor should give you all the time you need to discuss your concerns, you should be respectful of the doctor’s time and of the fact that other patients are waiting.
  • While it is important to let the doctor know what exposures you have had, you may not have the same diagnosis as your cousin or friend. The prescription issued may not be the same because it is for you, given your particular situation. Drugs advertised on television may not be the best for your individual needs, either.
  • If, after you arrive home, you realize you forgot to ask something or you have more questions, call the doctor’s office. The office medical assistants and nurses often can answer your questions or can pose your questions to the doctor for you.

It’s important that you schedule regular check-ups with your doctor, not only for diagnosis and treatment of health problems, but also to maintain and/or improve your overall health and wellness. Don’t let fear, worry or embarrassment keep you from making that appointment. And, once you’ve made it, take steps to make the most of your visit.

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Dr. Beth Sjoblom, an internal medicine specialist who is board-certified in geriatrics, is a member of St. Anthony’s Physician Organization. She practices at St. Anthony’s Medical Plaza, Suite 270, 12700 Southfork Road, 314-525-4678. For a referral to any St. Anthony’s physician, call 314-ANTHONY (268-4669) or 1-800-554-9550.

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For information, please call our Health Access Line at 314-ANTHONY (268-4669) or 800-554-9550 or visit find a physician online.

Working as trusted partners, the physicians and employees of St. Anthony's Health System will deliver care distinguished by its demonstrated quality and personalized service. We will be visibly engaged in improving the health and well­ being of the communities we serve in South County and beyond. We will stand together, proud to set the standard for independent community health systems.