Have you ever left a doctor’s appointment feeling worse than you did when you arrived? Like you weren’t able to say everything you wanted to say, or worse, like the medical provider didn’t take you seriously when you did?
While most medical providers do have your best interests at heart, it’s always possible you’ll encounter one who doesn’t—and not surprisingly, that’s more likely for women and people of color. You may have even experienced something called “medical gaslighting,” a term that describes “when someone in power uses manipulation to make another person doubt his or her own judgment.”
But even when everyone is acting in good faith, visiting your provider can still be a fraught experience, whether you’re afraid of doctors, feel too rushed to talk about all your concerns, or tons of other reasons.
Whatever the case may be, if the idea of going to the doctor fills you with any amount of dread, you’re likely wondering what you can do to prepare yourself. So, we’ve put together some tips for what you can do before, during, and after the appointment, starting with:
1. Track your symptoms
We’ve written about the benefits of tracking your migraine attacks before. No matter what sort of relationship you have with your medical provider, having your symptom history in front of you while you’re talking about your concerns can help them understand what’s wrong and make a diagnosis faster.
Whether or not you’re worried about not being believed, being able to show your medical provider data can help you maintain your confidence when they start asking probing questions.
2. Prepare a list of questions to ask the doctor
Visiting the doctor’s office can be a nerve-wracking experience, and if your mind sometimes goes blank when you’re nervous, you’re not alone. Make a list of questions you have about your symptoms in the weeks leading up to your appointment, and keep it on your phone or a piece of paper you bring with you.
One last bit of preparation before you head to the doctor’s office:
3. Practice saying “no”
Adults living in the United States have “the right to self-determination in health care decisions” according to a federal law called the Patient Self-Determination Act. And while that law is primarily focused on medical treatments and surgeries, the same principle also applies to procedures like pelvic exams or even being weighed when they’re not medically necessary.
But it’s one thing to know you can refuse a treatment from your medical provider; it’s another thing altogether to feel comfortable actually doing it. So, as silly as it feels, practice saying something like “I’d like to hear about other treatment options” out loud in front of a mirror, or even roleplay the conversation with a friend or loved one.
Speaking of which, you may also be able to…
4. Bring a relative or friend with you to the appointment
Check the facility’s visitor and COVID-19 policies before you try this, as many have now limited the number of outside visitors they allow in for safety reasons.
If you can bring a support person, let them know in advance what you want to discuss at the appointment, so they can make sure you get to it. They can also help you remember what the provider said after you leave. And whether it’s you or the person you brought with you, someone should…
5. Take notes during your appointment
While you may be convinced you’ll remember everything your medical provider said later, why risk it? These days, you can often access your provider’s notes via an online patient portal after the appointment as well, but they may have a different perspective than you on what’s worth noting down.
If, after the appointment is over, you’re still not satisfied with the care you received, you may be left feeling stuck. However, you do still have options for what to do next:
6. Contact a patient advocate
A patient advocate is a person who helps guide a patient through the healthcare system. They can help you:
- communicate with your medical providers
- get financial and legal support
- set up appointments and tests
- work with your insurance company to get the coverage you need
Interested in working with a patient advocate? A great place to start is the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy (NAHAC) directory.
7. Get a second opinion or referral to another medical provider
Didn’t get the answers you needed from your medical provider? You can always go see another one. Even if your provider isn’t willing to refer you to a specialist, depending on what kind of health insurance you have, you may be able to make an appointment with one directly.
You can also visit another primary care provider instead, or sometimes an online healthcare provider can be a great solution.
8. File a complaint against your doctor
Have you ever been in a situation with a medical provider where you wished you could “speak to their manager”? Filing a report with your state’s medical board is typically an option reserved for cases of medical malpractice (a crime that consists of things like sexual misconduct or working while under the influence of alcohol), but you can always still make a complaint to the practice where the provider works.
While you’re never obligated to report when something like this happens to you, it can often make you feel more in control of the situation.
We don’t want to end this on too much of a downer, but being prepared and knowing all your options can help you respond effectively to a variety of uncomfortable situations in healthcare settings. Patients have rights, and it’s time to learn them so we can stand up for them when we need to.
Have you ever encountered issues like these when searching for migraine treatment? Cove’s medical providers are here to help.
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.