8 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Doctor's Visits

Life changes after a stroke. Follow up care, rehabilitation, and prevention become a regular part of a stroke survivor’s routine. If you have been previously healthy, it may be the first time in your life that you need to navigate the health care system. Health care is a highly complex world with executives, politicians, and administrators battling over cost and regulations. But that does not mean that the most important player in health care – you, the patient – should get lost in the shuffle.

As a stroke survivor, you can still get the most out of your visits to the doctor to keep your doctor's visits pleasant, and avoid unexpected communication problems. Here are some tools that can help:

Use Your Rights to Access Your Medical Records

Most medical centers and offices have transitioned to electronic medical records with password protected patient access. Medical offices without electronic medical records can copy or fax your records for you. This can help you keep track of things, stay in the loop, and understand the details of your condition.

A Weird Hunch

If you have a strange symptom, but you just aren’t sure if it is a big deal, go ahead and tell your doctor. There is no symptom too weird or too embarrassing, and your doctor has probably heard it before. In fact, in stroke recovery, strange symptoms are often quite significant and may alter the treatment plan.

Talk With the Whole Team

Or whomever you feel comfortable with on your health care team.

Some patients develop a great rapport with a nurse, a physical therapist, or a dietician. Health care providers who care for stroke patients are familiar with your questions, your concerns, and can help you in many different ways along the path to recovery.

Alleviate Misgivings

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about cost containment or about conflict of interest.

There is a great deal of misinformation about health care and physician incentives. The idea that doctors order tests to make money is worrisome for patients, but in reality, it is almost never true. However, if you are concerned that your doctor is ordering many tests or medications because you think she owns the testing facility or invests in the manufacturer, just ask. A straight question should get a straight answer and put your mind at ease.

On the flip side, patients worry that doctors do not order tests or treatments because of insurance company restrictions on cost. If you think you should have had a particular test or medication, do not be afraid to ask your doctor directly. Don’t let yourself feel shortchanged because your doctor did not order a test that your best friend’s sister had. Your doctor will explain why or why not that test is appropriate in your situation.

Admit Your Worst Fear

Many patients harbor health fears, afraid to voice them for fear of validating them. If you think you might become permanently disabled, or that people will treat you differently or if you are terrified about having another stroke, you should mention your concerns. The ensuing discussion and plans can be very useful and productive.

Be Honest

If you can't picture yourself losing weight, eating healthy, changing your habits, or giving up cigarettes, just say it. More importantly, if you can’t remember to take your medications, you should explain that. Your doctor might decide to change your medication to a different one with an easier dosing schedule or to substitute pills with an injectable form.

Have a Plan

As you recover from your stroke, hopefully you will not have another medical emergency. However, it helps to have a plan in place. Keep a list of your medications and the contact information of your medical team. This can help streamline future medical problems and make your care more efficient and effective.


Ask about the complications associated with your particular stroke. "Will I have a seizure? Bleeding from blood thinners?" If you are familiar with the prognosis of your condition, you and your family will be able to recognize any complications and get attention quickly.

Health care is a highly charged political arena with many backseat drivers. But your health care is what matters. And you can still get the attention you need from your hands on health care team.

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