Be a smart questioner
At the doctor’s office:
- Experts suggest that patients go to an appointment with a set of questions or perhaps even e-mail or fax them ahead of time. “If you have a lot of questions, call the office to say that you may need a little more time,” says Gloria Lopez-Cordle, author of The Personal Medical Journal.
- Ask whether your doctor has washed his or her hands before starting to examine you.
- Ask your doctor to draw pictures if it might help you understand.
- Ask for written instructions.
- Ask for permission to bring a tape recorder to help you remember them.
Questions to ask:
- How will this new medicine help me?
- What is the prescription? Does it have a brand or generic name?
- What is the dosage?
- What are the side effects? If I have a bad reaction or worrisome side effects, whom should I call, and when?
- Are there any food or drinks I should avoid while taking it?
- Can I take this medicine with any allergies I may have?
- Is it safe to take the medicine with other vitamins, herbs or supplements I take?
Be your own advocate in the hospital
- Don’t be shy about asking your care providers if they’ve washed their hands.
- Make sure your doctors and nurses check your name or wristband before giving your medicine or performing any procedures.
- If you have an IV drip, ask the hospital caregiver how long it should take for the liquid to run out.
- Ask about having an antibiotic before surgery
- When you leave the hospital, ask what further tests should be done, who should schedule them and when to schedule a follow-up exam.
- Before you leave the hospital, ask what signs or symptoms should prompt you to call for a doctor’s visit.
Bring a friend
- Take a family member, friend or caregiver with you to provide support, and to step in if necessary.
Cathie Gandel is a freelance writer based in New York.
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