Primary care is a vital bridge between you, your doctor, and your health. Whether you're seeking preventive screenings, managing a chronic condition, or just trying to stay on top of the latest recommendations, here’s how to make the most of your one-on-one time at the doctor’s office.
“Scheduling regular checkups is a great first step,” says Mario Angulo, DO, a family medicine physician with Atlantic Health System. “Patients who make and keep their annual visits are looking for ways to stay informed about their health — and improve it. We’re in lockstep with that goal of boosting each patient’s overall well-being.”
Whether you’re a new patient or you’ve been with the same doctor for years, here are a few tips to make your primary care visit productive and tailored to your medical needs.
Preparing Ahead of Time
1. Gather important information so your doctor has a comprehensive picture of your health – and your family’s health history too. Make sure you share current medications, allergies, past surgeries, and chronic conditions. If you’ve visited other doctors, an urgent care, or a hospital emergency room since your last visit, be sure to tell your doctor.
2. Write down a list of symptoms, questions, or concerns you'd like to discuss during the appointment. Prioritize them just in case time is limited. Start a health journal to keep track of key dates, symptoms, side effects from medications, or any noticeable changes in your health between appointments.
3. Understand that preventive care is key to good health. Your doctor will discuss recommended cancer screenings and vaccinations for your age. They’ll ask if you’re feeling depressed or anxious. They’ll track height, weight and blood pressure as important health markers. They’ll also talk about habits or behaviors that are benefitting or harming your health.
4. Bring a notepad with questions, a health journal with dates and details, or a folder with documents to add to your MyChart health record. Your primary care provider is a valuable source, so share information, listen closely and ask questions – and be ready to take notes.
5. Be prepared for “homework” as Dr. Angulo often calls it. If your doctor recommends tests, specialists, or subsequent visits, it’s important to relay this information back to your doctor, which you can do using MyChart. It’s critical that your primary care doctor knows how you’re handling new treatments, medications, or lifestyle changes.
Advocate for Yourself During Your Visit
You are the best person to advocate for your health, so make sure you are open and honest, even when it comes to sensitive topics.
“It can be intimidating to open up at first, but physicians are your partners in good health,” says Dr. Angulo, who has developed long-term relationships with both English- and Spanish-speaking patients at his practice, explaining that the magic of the doctor-patient relationship naturally grows over time, through mutual trust, respect and a shared purpose in protecting your health.
“With a little preparation and honest dialogue from a patient during their visit, they’ll receive the type of personalized care they need and expect, so that they can take proactive steps toward a healthier future,” Dr. Angulo says.
Be Proactive About Your Health
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