Prepare for Better Health Care

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ziglar150VerticalBy Dr. Susan Ziglar

You don’t have to be a doctor to take charge of your health care. Getting the most out of your next medical appointment, and understanding the information provided, can be as easy as following a few guidelines.

According to the CDC, nine out of 10 adults have difficulty following medical advice because it is too confusing. Research shows that these misunderstandings can worsen patient outcomes and increase the cost of health care. In my view, preparation can help even the most difficult of appointments seem easy.

Demystify your next appointment with the following simple tips:

  • Start with scheduling. Ask the person scheduling your appointment how you should prepare. If you believe you may need more face time with the provider, ask to book a longer appointment. Be sure to schedule your appointment so you are able to come early to fill out any necessary paperwork. This will help you to avoid getting flustered from the start.
  • Do the legwork. Write down the questions you have ahead of time. This will help you focus. Bring a pen and a pad of paper so you can write down what is discussed, and check off that everything has been covered. Bring a list of all of your medications, or better yet, bring them with you.
  • Be honest. Don’t be embarrassed to share everything about your medical history, even if you do not think it matters. Often times, patients leave an appointment feeling like they have more to add. It is important for your provider to know your full background to accurately make a diagnosis. Your doctor’s office is a judgment-free zone, so do not feel embarrassed.
  • Bring a buddy. When you are faced with an overwhelming amount of information, you may not be able to take it all in. It can be helpful to bring a friend or family member along. They can help you ask questions and remember the answers the doctor has provided.
  • When in doubt, ask. A good medical provider will take the time to answer all of your questions. There is no such thing as a stupid question. I often draw pictures to help my patients understand their diagnosis, and you can ask your provider to do the same. If you leave an appointment confused, be sure to call the office when you get home to get clarification.
  • Learn a bit of the lingo. Although it is your provider’s responsibility to help you understand what he or she is communicating, you can use online resources to research basic medical terms. Two medical words that are easily confused are “positive” and “negative” tests or results. A positive test result is an abnormal finding, and while a negative test sounds bad, it is actually a normal finding.

You and your provider are a team. Work together with him or her to ensure you receive understandable information about your care. By becoming engaged and preparing ahead, you will find your medical appointments and instructions much less daunting.

Dr. Susan Ziglar is a family practitioner who practices with Chesapeake Regional Medical Group’s Currituck Internal Medicine and Family Practice, which provides routine and urgent care services. For more information about the group, or to schedule an appointment, call 252-435-6621. For more information about CRMG, visit

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