3 Ways to Be Your Own Advocate at Your Checkup

Being prepared for your doctor's appointment is extremely important. Coming in with specific comments, questions, and concerns helps you make the most of your time. And, there's a better chance you'll leave the appointment feeling more confident about your health. By having more control over your own care and knowing your decisions are better informed, you may be able to reduce your stress level about health issues.

To be your own best medical advocate, here are three steps to keep in mind when you visit your doctor.

Come prepared.

Come to your appointment with prepared questions and take your own notes during the conversation. Your doctor's notes are mainly taken for the medical record, for writing prescriptions and for legal reasons. Usually, these notes aren't really in language you will understand. If you're feeling stressed, you can give a relative or friend permission to come into the room with you to help you remember the doctor's comments. If you don't understand any answers, ask follow-up questions.

Get familiar with your insurance.

Make sure to take some time to learn about your health insurance plan, if you have one. It may be a good idea to confirm that check-ups and screening tests are covered. It's also a good idea to know how to find out if something you need is covered or not. Most insurance companies should have a website and/or a phone number you can use to get more information.

Be open.

Speak freely and fully with your doctor about any symptoms you may have, as well as what’s working well or not so well in your treatments. Doctors can’t always tell what’s going on even with the most sophisticated tests, so patients need to explain their concerns. Also, don’t be embarrassed to ask for help.

Be clear about your goals.

Doctors can’t know what’s most important to you without you telling them. Before your appointment, jot down what you hope to learn from your conversation, as well as your short-term and long-term health care goals.