Empowered Patient: Bring a Family Member or Friend with you to Your Doctor’s Appointment

By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

Should you bring a family member or friend with you when a patient has a doctor’s appointment?

That is a question explored on a recent post on KevinMD by guest blogger, Diana E. Lee, a chronic migraine patient who blogs at Somebody Heal Me.

“Most of the resources I’ve read about how to prepare for a doctor’s appointment recommend bringing a loved one with you so that person can help you remember what the doctor said and make sure you get your questions and concerns addressed.

But when I read Paula Kamen’s book All in My Head: An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable and Only Slightly Enlightening Headache , I was surprised to learn about the negative conclusions one of her doctors drew about her emotional stability based on her decision to bring her mother with her to her appointments…

I think Kamen’s experience begs the question of whether you do yourself more harm than good by bringing a close friend or family member with you to your appointments.”

While there may be some health care professionals who feel that having a family member or friend with you may not be beneficial, typically it is an excellent idea to bring someone with you to your doctor’s visit.

Bringing a trusted friend or family member with you to your doctor’s appointment (or other health care practitioner) is smart advice.

Patients may become anxious during their doctor’s visit, and understanding simple information may become difficult.  Patients may not feel confident to ask questions.

Having a trusted friend or family member with you can help alleviate any uneasiness.

It’s important that you choose the right person to bring with you.  Lee makes excellent points when she says not to bring someone with you who will interrupt or talk over the doctor.  Don’t choose a difficult person or someone that is combative.  “Choose someone who understands his or her role in being there and is willing and able to fulfill that role,” she writes.

Choosing someone who understands his or her role is critical to a successful visit with your doctor.  Talk with your trusted friend or family member to make sure they understand their role. Before your doctor’s visit, sit down with your trusted friend or family member and write a list of specific questions that you would like answered.

Choosing the right person will help you effectively communicate with your doctor.

How Patients Can Help Enhance Communication with Their Doctors

  • It is helpful to be prepared and to be empowered. Before you visit with your doctor, write down any questions that you may have. Be well prepared and organized.  Keep your questions very specific.  At the beginning of your visit, let your doctor know that you do have a list of very specific questions that you would like to ask.  By mentioning this in the beginning of the visit, your doctor is now aware that you have questions.  You are giving your doctor a “heads up” so that your doctor can accommodate your questions.
  • Bring a trusted friend or family member with you. They can help decipher the information and take notes during the visit.  You can also ask your doctor if it is okay to record the conversation.  This will make it easier for you to have all the necessary information.
  • Communicate and collaborate respectfully with your doctor. Present your questions in a clear and succinct manner.  If your doctor interrupts you, or if you feel you are being rushed and you did not get time to ask your questions, calmly and politely let your doctor know that you have specific questions that you would like answered before the office visit ends.
  • Listen carefully what your doctor is saying. If you don’t understand something, simply and politely ask your doctor to explain it in simpler terms and if it will help you to remember, take some notes.
  • Before leaving the office, make sure you are absolutely clear about all the information you received. It is important that you understand any instructions and the treatment plan given to you.  If any medications are prescribed make sure you understand them exactly.

You can read more from Diana E. Lee on her post at KevinMD, and then you can begin a conversation below.

Your turn

We would love to hear from you.  When you have a doctor’s appointment, do you bring someone with you?  Is it a help or a hindrance?  Do you write a list of specific questions to ask your doctor or other health care practitioner?  Does your doctor welcome your questions?  What tips do you have?

Similar posts

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How to Engage Your E-Patients Like a Rock Star

How to Question Doctors and Nurses — Without “Challenging” Them

Patient Engagement Category

[Image:  istockphoto]

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  1. 1

    This works for me on many levels. I’m lucky. I’m married to a very savvy lady. When I go to the doctor, she helps me stay on target and reminds me that the doctor or PA won’t necessarily remember everything about my personal context. Let’s face it, no matter how smart, how patient-centric the doctor, every patient is just one among the many. Sure, they have notes, but they can only read so much so fast. In addition, as I recently pointed out in a blog post for KevinMD (http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2010/09/advocate-patients-save-life-hospital.html) , my wife has been my advocate through an intense week in the hospital. I wouldn’t have wanted to do that without her.
    On the other hand, I know not everyone has a family member or close friend who can fill that job. For them, fortunately, there are advocates.

  2. 2

    I do not take anyone along to doctor’s appointments (unless it’s my children, and I really try to avoid that). I DO type my questions for the doctor. That’s easier for both of us. I don’t forget to ask anything, and the doctor knows exactly what my questions are.

  3. 3

    I took my boyfriend to an gynecologist appt. an appt.where i feel all my dignity is taken from me and i was told he could not and they would not allow him to come in. I wasnt even having a procedure done just test result conclusions, i would want him in during a procedure, are they allowed to tell me he cant come into my appt.

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