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Bringing Backup: How Observers Help Prepare for a Better Doctor’s Visit

Zing Health
Posted by Zing Health on Dec 13, 2022 10:56:39 AM

No one should feel frustrated leaving a doctor’s office; the medical team is working for you. Yet there’s a lot to ask doctors in a small amount of time, and all that information can take a while to sink in. Bringing a spouse, adult child, interpreter or trusted friend can keep a doctor’s appointment from being overwhelming and keep the patient in charge.

The first task is to make sure everyone understands their roles. A third person in a medical consultation should observe and not get in the way and interrupt the conversation. Having a good note-taker or interpreter on hand will keep the meeting productive, with all questions answered and next steps made clear. Let companions know how they can be the most helpful during the doctor’s visit.

How to Get Ready for a Doctor’s Appointment

Before the appointment, sit down together and discuss what the doctor needs to address. What are the chief concerns? How do they affect daily life? Write down questions and symptoms; and make interpreters understand them. Medical websites such as often will suggest what to ask about specific conditions. If there are multiple concerns, put them in order so that the most important issues get addressed first. There may also be personal concerns to ask without an observer at hand. Plan to discuss any hospital visits or other incidents since the last appointment.

Also have a current list of medications on hand, including the dosages and at what time they’re taken. The doctor may not be up to speed on what other doctors have done or prescribed, especially if their medical records are on separate systems. If this is a first appointment, have other doctors’ names on hand in case the doctor needs their medical records. Check any papers from a hospital visit or earlier appointment or look them up online; medication lists often are included. Add vitamins and supplements to the list so that their health effects or drug interactions can be considered. Some people just put all their medications in a bag and bring them along.

Out of concern for the spread of airborne disease, some waiting rooms limit the number of visitors. So, the office staff will need to recognize who is there in a support role. Face masks may be required as a precaution, and visitors with flu-like symptoms may not be allowed. A telehealth virtual visit may get questions answered without office restrictions or travel limitations. If this is the first appointment, the companion can help fill out medical history or other forms. Asking for copies before the appointment will provide time to complete them at home.

Preparing for Time in the Exam Room

When arriving, introduce observers and explain why they’re on hand. Give the doctor a heads-up that there are specific questions to answer, with an observer or translator there to make sure nothing is missed or forgotten. The doctor may allow the visit to be recorded, or simply to allow notetaking on a phone or computer, to help with points to review later.

The note taker should let the doctor and patient control the conversation, just slowing the pace enough to write down important details and to give the patient time to react and ask follow-up questions. Write down all to-do items, such as getting prescriptions filled or making follow-up appointments. Patients should ask the doctor or interpreter to repeat things as often as it takes to understand them.

 After the visit, go over the notes together. If others are involved in the person’s care, they may need follow-up information as well, such as new prescriptions or return appointments. Decide how to get that information circulated, even if it’s a photo of written notes or doctor’s orders. An organized process will make sure patients get the most out of their doctor’s appointment.

Y0149_ZH-B-122022VISIT_C Internal Approved 12082022

Topics: Blog, prescription drugs, medical history, holistic care, doctor's appointment, interpreter

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