How To Get The Most Out Of Your Doctor's Appointment

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Many of us have gone to a doctor's appointment only to leave with more questions then we came in with. Why does this happen? Probably for a number of reasons.

Headaches are complex disorders. During an appointment, there is a lot to cover. It's not surprising that things get missed.

It's also easy to get overwhelmed by all the hustle and bustle of a doctor's office. After checking in, verifying your insurance, getting your vitals done, and going through a medication list with the nurse, it's a no-brainer that you may forget the main reason why you even scheduled the appointment!

Appointments too are sometimes rushed. Doctors are commonly pressed for time, and this may add a sense of urgency or stress to the visit.

So what can you do to maximize time with your doctor at the next appointment? Be proactive and follow these tidbits.

Make a List of Questions

Grab your pen and notebook and write down all of your headache questions, even if you think they are silly—which I assure you, no question is silly. Make sure to bring the list to your appointment. Initiate the questions at the start of the appointment, not the end.

Example questions may be:

  • Why is my new headache medication making me feel nauseated?
  • Why are my headaches worse in the morning?
  • Stress seems to be a trigger for my headaches. Do you have any suggestions for ways in which I can manage my stress better?
  • Will my headaches ever go away?
  • Since I have migraines, will my children develop migraines too?

Stay in Touch

Be sure to ask your doctor when you should follow-up and what would necessitate you seeing her sooner.

Schedule the follow-up appointment that day.

Ask your doctor for their card or contact information in the event you need to reach her or her nurse. Clarify whether your doctor prefers an email over a phone call.

Confirm the turnaround time needed for medication refills. You certainly do not want to realize on a Saturday that you have no medication left when suffering from a severe migraine attack.

Formulate a Written Plan

It's not uncommon to go home and forget some of the essential topics your doctor addressed with you. How can you remedy this? Taking your spouse or friend along with you to the appointment if you are comfortable can be helpful. But for many of you, this is not realistic or you may prefer a private interaction with your physician, which is perfectly reasonable.

Regardless of whether you are attending the appointment alone or with someone, please ask your doctor to write out the important issues/plan/solutions you discussed.

Examples of a written plan may be:

  • A list of the potential side effects of the new medication you are taking, and what you should do if you develop one.
  • A headache action flowchart:
    • For example, "When you first develop a migraine, stop what you are doing, take ibuprofen, and go lie down in a dark room for 30-60 minutes. If you have severe nausea with your migraine, take ondansetron (Zofran) with the ibuprofen." The flowchart would go on to describe what your doctor wants you to do if your headache persists or you develop certain warning signs.
  • Goals you should improve on to help your headache (i.e. improved sleep hygiene, more exercise).

Take Home Message

The doctor-patient relationship can be a wonderful, healing partnership. Learn to make the most of your time with your doctor. Be an advocate in your headache health.


Cowan R. Communication: Making Sure You Have Success. Accessed February 26th 2015.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this site is for informational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your doctor for advice, diagnosis, and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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