Preparing for your consultation
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Being diagnosed with a condition can be stressful and worrying. Understanding your diagnosis and the treatment available is important so you can be fully involved in making any decisions that affect your health. To make sure you're informed about how it may affect your life it's essential that you have a conversation with your doctor. This means asking the right questions.
Initial appointments with your doctor usually last for around 10 minutes. Thinking about questions you'd like answered in advance will allow you to clearly communicate with your doctor and help you to get the information you need.
Dr Steve Iley, our Medical Director of Health Insurance, offers his advice about how to prepare for your consultation and the questions you should be asking.
If you've just been diagnosed with a condition or you're still looking for a diagnosis, it's likely that you'll have lots of questions. Unfortunately, it's easy to forget to ask important questions when you're in the consultation room.
If you think your appointment might go on for longer than 10 minutes let reception know when you book it. They may be able to give you a longer slot with your GP. Some specialist appointments often vary in length so preparation is even more important.
Can you explain what my condition is and how it may affect my day-to-day life?
Dr Iley: "Whether you have a minor health concern or a long-term condition, it's important that you understand how it will affect you. Knowing how your condition works will be the first step in your journey to recovery. Once you understand your condition, you'll be able to start looking into your treatment choices. This is also a good time to make any lifestyle changes that will make living with your condition easier. You can also work out if you'll need to take any time off work so you can give your employer plenty of notice.
Why do you think I've developed this condition?
Dr Iley: "This question will help you find out the cause of your condition so you can look for ways to stop it getting worse or help ease your symptoms. You can also identify self-help measures that will make your life a little easier.
Can this condition cause other health problems for me?
Dr Iley: "Sometimes a condition can lead to other health problems. If you're aware of these from the beginning, there may be things you can do to prevent them.
What should I do if I start to feel unwell? What symptoms should I look out for?
Dr Iley: "It's important that you can recognise the symptoms of your condition or any complications related to your condition in case you need immediate treatment. It's a good idea to tell your close friends and family of what to look out for.
Is my condition hereditary?
Dr Iley: "Some conditions get worse over time, so informing family members that your condition may be hereditary could allow them to get treatment before it develops".
It's possible that you'll need tests to make sure you get an accurate diagnosis.
What does this test involve and what should I expect?
Dr Iley: "Any medical procedure, including tests, can be daunting. Managing your expectations will help you to deal with any worry you're feeling ahead of the test. Knowing what the test involves beforehand also gives you the opportunity to raise any concerns you have before your appointment".
Are there any risks associated with this test and how do they apply to me?
Dr Iley: "Your doctor should explain any risk involved but if they haven't it's important to ask about how they apply to you. Understanding the risks will help you to make a decision about your tests based on research as well as your own personal values.
Are there any alternatives to this test?
Dr Iley: "Your doctor will have suggested a specific test for a reason. But make sure you have an open discussion about your options so you can make a decision together. Being aware of all the options available to you will allow you to choose an alternative if you're unhappy with the test your doctor has suggested.
How long will I have to wait for my test results?
Dr Iley: "Asking this question can give you peace of mind if you haven't had your results for a couple of days. Your doctor should be able to give you an estimated timeframe. However, it's important to remember that this is just an estimate and occasionally things get held up.
How should I prepare for my test?
Dr Iley: "Some tests have specific requirements that you'll need to follow so make sure you're aware of them before the day of your appointment. Not knowing you have to stop taking medication or follow a special diet could result in your appointment being postponed, which could slow down your treatment."
You should have a thorough understanding of your condition and your different options before you make any decisions about your treatment. The questions you should ask may vary based on your individual circumstances. However, it's a good idea to ask your doctor questions about your options, what the treatment involves and what will happen following your treatment.
What are my treatment options?
Dr Iley: "It's good to be aware of all your different treatment options so you know you're making an informed decision. Although your doctor may suggest a specific treatment, you should make a joint decision based on research and your personal values.
What are the risks associated with the different treatment options?
Dr Iley: "Most treatments come with possible risks and side-effects. These will be different for different people so it's important that you're aware of any that are related to you and your treatment. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor to explain further if there's anything you don't understand.
Will the treatment cure my condition?
Dr Iley: "Unfortunately not all conditions can be cured. Asking your doctor about the likelihood of your condition being cured after your treatment will allow you to manage your expectations. Your treatment may be to help relieve your symptoms, so it's important that you find this out beforehand.
Who will carry out my treatment?
Dr Iley: "Finding out some information about the doctor carrying out your treatment and their experience may help to manage any nerves or worries you have prior to your appointment.
Can the condition come back after treatment?
Dr Iley: "Your journey to recovery doesn't always stop when you've finished your treatment. Ask your doctor about taking care of yourself after your treatment and how likely it is that your condition will come back. Depending on your condition and how you developed it, you may need to make changes to your lifestyle and diet to keep looking after yourself.
What are the alternatives to having treatment?
Dr Iley: "Depending on your condition and what caused it, you might be able to make changes to your lifestyle to ease the symptoms of your condition. It's usually recommended that you try self-help measures before considering treatment or surgery".
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