Talking to Your Healthcare Provider While on Treatment
Keeping your medical appointments and regularly communicating with your healthcare provider is important to staying healthy, minimizing treatment-related side effects and maximizing your chance of treatment success. Here are some things you can do to get the most out of your medical appointments:
- Prepare, prepare, prepare. Write down your questions and concerns in advance of your appointment and prioritize them. This should include any problems or symptoms you are having, all medications you are taking (including herbs and vitamins), and any changes in your living or work situation.
- If you’re having troublesome symptoms, try to be specific when describing them: What do they feel like, when do they happen, how long do they last, does anything make them better, and what have you tried to make them go away? It helps to keep a diary of your symptoms with dates and notes.
- Be honest. Your doctor needs to know exactly what’s going on in order to provide you with the best care. For instance, if you’re feeling particularly depressed or have used drugs or alcohol, you must him or her know. They are not there to judge you, but to help you. Otherwise, you may be harmed by treatment or not get the best result from treatment.
- Maintain your own health records. It helps if you always ask for copies of the most recent reports and take them with you to visits, particularly if you have questions about them.
- Medical tests and lab work are a very important step in treatment. If your doctor is sending you for medical tests or lab work, make sure you understand what they are for and what the results might indicate in terms of your treatment. Be sure to follow through on all of your appointments and ask to talk to your doctor about the results.
- If you’re given any new medications get specific information about how and when they should be taken, what the common side effects are, and if there are any signs or symptoms that need to be reported immediately. This is especially important if you see other doctors for unrelated reasons, and you should always call your Hepatitis C doctor to check with her or him before starting any new medications while you are on treatment. You should also consider getting a pill dispenser to help you keep track of the medications throughout the day and week.
- Take notes during the appointment. If your doctor makes suggestions, write them down. If you don’t understand something, ask for clarification.
- Take a family member or friend with you. It helps to have someone else listening, particularly during longer appointments or those where important decisions will be made. Ask that person to take notes so you can concentrate on what the doctor is saying.
- If your doctor suggests a plan that you have reservations about, communicate your concerns right away. Sometimes they can be easily addressed. If you’re still hesitant, ask if there are any alternatives.
Be clear about when you need to call your doctor. Ask him or her about symptoms that may need immediate attention. While you’re on treatment, these might include:
- Feeling short of breath or having discomfort in your chest
- Noticing changes in your vision
- Having swelling in your feet, ankles or legs
- Having a skin rash or unusual reaction around the injection site
- Having a fever or other signs of infection lasting more than 48 hours
- Having diarrhea for more than 48 hours
If you run out of time during your appointment and still have questions, ask if there’s someone else on your healthcare team who can talk with you. If not, ask if you can leave a copy of your questions and request a time to discuss them on the phone.