If possible, keep your health card, records (vaccination records, important documents, info sheet on your medication, etc.) and notes in one safe place. If you don’t have a place to store those documents, perhaps someone you trust (a family member, a friend, a counselor, an outreach worker, someone at an agency you go to, etc.) can keep them for you.
What are ways to help us feel satisfied with our health care? Feeling like a partner in our care and in related decision-making is an important part of it. Doctors/nurses/midwives/counselors are experts on medical care but we have expertise to contribute too: on ourselves, on our lives and circumstances, and on our communities.
Here are some tips and strategies to help manage appointments with health care providers, to keep track of important information that we are given (or we want to share) and to ensure that we get the information we need to participate in our own care.
Keeping track of our personal medical information is an important part of actively participating in managing our health care. Here are some tips and strategies to keep on top of it.
What can I do to make the most of my time with the health care provider?
Write down questions that come up in between appointments. It’s easy to forget what you meant to bring up once sitting with the health care provider.
Keep track of scheduled appointments (with a card in your wallet, on your phone, in a day planner, etc.).
What’s useful to share during my first visit?
Current health issues (i.e. arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes and/or viral illnesses such as hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS) and whether you are being treated for them
Any allergies (to medication, to foods as some vaccines or medication may contain traces of allergens, etc.)
Whether you have ever been hospitalized or had surgery (for what and when)
Any family members who have or had major health issues (i.e. diabetes, heart problems, mental health conditions, cancer, etc.)
Tobacco/alcohol/drug use (see our section on privacy and confidentiality)
Any personal circumstances or preferences that are important to share (e.g. any cultural or religious beliefs that may influence treatment options)
What to prepare or bring to an appointment?
A pen and notepad or a piece of paper to write down important information
If you have one, your day planner/agenda or phone to mark down follow-up appointments
A list of questions you’ve prepared in advance. Remember that it is more than OK to keep asking questions until you fully understand. It’s OK to ask for simpler answers. You have a right to understand your own health care!
A list of what your expectations are for that appointment and ways to communicate them. For example, do you want a full panel STI Test? Do you want to talk about a topic in particular? Do you want to leave with some resources and/or a referral for an issue you may have been dealing with? What are some ways that you could make that known or bring it up?
If this would make you feel safer, more in control or would be helpful, have a family member or friend with you during your appointment, if possible. They can take notes, ask questions to clarify information, and help you remember what your doctor says.
If this applies, a list of the medication/supplements/herbal remedies/hormones you are using and your allergies (if you have any). In some cases, a health care provider can help you figure out how your medication or supplements interact with each other.
What information should you be tracking and/or asking for?
During your appointment, you may need to answer some important questions, you may feel rushed, overwhelmed, intimidated or simply forget some of what you wanted to talk about. Here is a list of things to think about, write down in advance and/or have answered during the appointment to help you take an active role in your health care decisions, and make the most of your limited appointment time.
The following lists can help you come up with some questions to ask yourself or your health care provider and then take notes during appointments.
Before your appointment or visit to the clinic/drop-in
What questions or concerns do I want addressed during this appointment?
Do I have any symptoms? If so, how long have I had them? Have I done anything to make them better? Has it worked?
Can I think of any recent changes in my life or my routine? (A change in diet, sleep habits, a break-up, the death of a loved one, etc.)
At your appointment or visit to the clinic/drop-in
What is the diagnosis?
What does it mean in plain English?
Do I need to take medication? If so, what is the name of the medication?
If I need to take medication, what should I know about how to take it safely and effectively?
If I need to take medication, what should I watch out for?
If there is a need for a treatment, a follow-up or a surgery, what are the details I need to know about how to proceed?
What are the risks and benefits of this medication/treatment/surgery?
How soon will I start seeing results from the medication/treatment?
Are there alternatives to using this particular treatment/medication?
Do I need follow-up tests? If so, what are they? Where can I get them done?
When you are getting ready to leave
“Could you tell me what I need to do after I leave this appointment?” For example, schedule another appointment or book a test or fill a prescription, etc.?
What can I do at home to care for myself?
Do you have any recommendations for pamphlets, websites, groups, or any sources of information about this diagnosis/test/medication, etc.?
“Did I get this right (list what you are asked to do to care for yourself)?” “I am not sure I understand this, could you clarify/write these instructions for me?”
If you have concerns about following up on a recommended treatment or test
Do you have more information I could read up on?
How soon do I need to make a decision about getting a test or starting a treatment?
What might happen if I delay or avoid treatment?
What should I watch out for in terms of symptoms?
Can you recommend any types of supports to be able to follow through with this treatment?
When should I call to report any symptoms?
Before coming back for a follow-up appointment
Do I have any new symptoms or symptoms that persisted? If so what are they?
What concerns do I want to address during my follow-up appointment?
Have I had any trouble following up on treatment or taking my medication?
At your follow-up appointment
What is your assessment of my condition/the treatment?
Are there any other tests or treatment I need to do? If so, what are they?
What symptoms should I be on the lookout for? When should I call to report them?
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