As someone who has seen my fair share of health professionals over my lifetime, I have certain things I do to maximise the value and benefit of medical appointments. Especially when brain fog is a real hindrance to cognition sometimes, preparation prior, proactivity during and reflection after is vital. Here is my guide to how I get the most out of my appointments.
Have a small notebook and a pen, or even an app on your phone like Evernote or Google Keep – any form of record keeping that appeals to you that is portable. Whatever you choose – this is now your medical diary.
Before your appointment, sit down and think about the appointment ahead. Ask yourself:
- What is my main reason for seeing this person?
- Do I have a pressing concern to address during the appointment?
- Are there any particular questions I would like to (or need to) ask?
- Do I have all the information I need to take along with me? Such as a list of current medication, treatments, symptoms, diagnoses, allergies etc.
- Have I gathered all appropriate items for the appointment? Such as shorts and trainers for physio, appropriate clothing for scans, a book or some form of distraction for lengthy procedures like IV infusions.
Write all your notes down as you think of them. I have been known to randomly think of a substantial question or reminder to take specific actions at the oddest of times. Perhaps include your family, friends or carer – do they have any questions for you to ask or concerns they would like to raise? Make your questions as clear and concise as possible. If you need to remember a particular collection of items you should make a checklist.
The Day of the Appointment
Plan your day – I usually do this the night before. Set out your clothing, pack your items or prepare and collect your information. Don’t forget your notebook! (or your phone if your preparatory notes are on there). Check off your checklists – is everything in order?
Plan to be at least 20 minutes early for your appointment; this will give you time to arrive (parking at hospitals is 90% of the time an issue), sign in and fill in any forms and so forth.
When your appointment begins, write down any information that may be useful to know after the fact:
Your Dr’s name
Answers to your questions
Results and feedback from any tests
Plans moving forward – treatments, procedures, medication.
Contact details – if not directly to them then their secretary or receptionist.
Personally, when I started taking notes in a notebook, I was apprehensive as to what the reception would be. However, the only time anyone mentions it is to say they like that I am proactive. All feedback I have had is positive, and no-one has ever said I cannot take notes. The person you see will likely make notes of some form or another about your appointment so why shouldn’t you?
After the Appointment
Here is the crucial bit. Have a look at your notes as soon after your appointment as you can – when it is fresh in your mind.
- Did you miss anything out?
- Is it legible (I have interesting writing at times)
- Does it make sense to you?
- Do you have any steps to take – appointment making, picking up new medication from the pharmacy, contacting them with additional information. Schedule these to make sure that it isn’t forgotten.
- Do you need to look anything up? There is a whole host of information out there so tread carefully – the best starting point for most (in the UK) is the NHS inform website.
After you have started taking notes and being proactive in your healthcare, you will notice that you feel more in control. When you have a bad pain day and brain fog clouds your mind – you can refer to your notes. I found this especially useful when post-op in hospital. The medication made my brain like a soggy biscuit, so I wrote conversations down to refer to later as well as noting medicine they gave me or any feedback and results from tests.
If you try this, I would love to hear how you get on, or if you have any ideas of things I miss let me know and I will add it to this post.