If you’re lucky, you and your doctor are long-time collaborators on your health journey, each of you well- informed and active participants in your ongoing care. But if you’ve recently changed doctors or tend to be more reserved during regular appointments, communicating effectively with your doctor may have its challenges. Doctors may have limited time, or may be distracted by reports and other concerns (doctors are human, too!). Talking with your doctor—in person or via teleconference—can also be anxiety-provoking for many people, which might result in you talking less than you’d planned. To get the most out of doctors’ visits—whether they’re with your epileptologist or your primary care physician—you may need to learn how to speak up. Here’s help getting the conversation started.
Make a list
Feeling anxious can lead to a number of problems, including forgetting to ask vital questions while you’re talking with your doc. Before the appointment, write down your questions and concerns, along with your biggest goal for the visit. If anxiety strikes, talk your doctor through the list and find a way to get your questions answered together.
One way you can make your doctor aware of concerns is to share specific, concrete details about what’s bothering you. Vague language, such as “my head hurts,” might lead to a misdiagnosis, whereas specific language can give your doctor more clues to what’s going on. Create a personal health “report” where you rate your concerns on a scale, and jot down when symptoms started, what they feel like, how long they last, and how often they occur. You might also consider providing video of your seizures for your doctor to watch.
Ask open-ended questions
Questions that can be answered with a yes or no might leave you wanting more info. The solution? Ask open-ended questions. Some key phrases might include, “Can you help me understand X?” or “What can you tell me about Y?” And don’t be afraid to ask your doctor to repeat or clarify anything if you don’t catch it the first time.
Stretch your time
According to research, doctor’s appointments in the U.S. are about 20 minutes long. That’s not much time, particularly if you have multiple health concerns or lots of questions. Make use of secure online messaging systems to send through a list of questions in advance, and don’t be shy about asking about a double-length appointment. Before you leave your appointment, ask for the best contact information for any follow-up questions after the visit.
Consider a second opinion
Even with the best preparation, you might still come away from your appointment feeling confused or unsatisfied. If you feel unheard or your questions are still unanswered, consider getting a second opinion—and let both doctors know the reason why.
This app allows you to keep a log of your medication history, including dosage, side effects, and times medi- cation is taken. While it’s a helpful reminder for you to have on hand at any time, when shared with a doctor during an appointment it can also allow him or her to see patterns that you might not otherwise notice.
This app allows you to jot down every- thing—including audio and images— in case you want to share something with your doctor that he or she has to see (or hear) to believe.
TigerText allows you to send your physicians encrypted messages and files, including video and images—perfect for communicating be- tween visits or sharing information you may have forgotten.
EpilepsyAdvocate Spring 2020.