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How to make the most of your appointment
In order to be able to provide you with the best possible care your doctor and other clinic staff need to make sure that they understand your concerns and problems. It is important that you make the most of your time with the clinic staff and do what you can to help them understand your needs. To get the most from the clinic visit it helps to do the following:
Before the consultation write down what you want to achieve from the discussion and any questions you have. Doctors tend to ask you if you have any questions at the end of the consultation and by that time you may feel unable to take up more of the doctor’s time. Try to ask the most important questions first. Although you may have a longer time with the specialist, you will not be able to ‘pop back’ for clarification of a point, as you can with your GP. Take a pad and pen to note down yourself what the doctor recommends or ask a friend or partner to accompany you to the consultation and make notes on what is said. Explain to your doctor that you are going to write down important points. Do not be afraid to ask him/her to spell or write down for you any medical terms or drug names that you want to note. Ask him/her to explain any medical terminology or jargon which you do not understand. It may be a good idea to spend a few minutes immediately afterwards writing a brief summary of the main points covered in the consultation.
When you come for your first appointment make sure that you bring a list of all the medicines that you are taking including any medicines that you buy over the counter (without a prescription), herbal or homoeopathic medicines and any vitamins or supplements that you take.
At each visit make sure that you inform your doctor if there are any changes in what you are taking. It is very important to mention any over-the counter or herbal remedies you are taking as they may interact with the medicine your doctor has prescribed for you.
Tell your doctor about allergies you may have.
If you have been prescribed any medication, make sure that you get full instructions about when and how to take it. Ask about any common side-effects you might experience.
Tests and investigations
If the doctor suggests further tests or hospital treatment the following checklist will help you obtain all the information you need about next steps.
If any tests are planned you may want to ask:
•What is the purpose of the tests?
•What are the implications of the tests?
•What will happen during the tests?
•What are the risks?
•When and where will the tests be carried out?
•How accurate are the tests?
•When will the results be available?
Do not leave the clinic without a clear understanding of what the doctor believes the problem is and how the condition should improve with the proposed treatment.
Do not forget to ask what developments or change in symptoms you should look for if you need to book an earlier appointment.
After the consultation
Following your consultation, your doctor will write to your GP to inform him about your problem. Sometimes your specialist will tell you at the consultation what he or she recommends. However, a letter will always be written to your GP. If tests have been done, the specialist will usually wait for the results before writing to your GP.