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Tips for Being a Partner in Your Own Care

Preparation, communication between patient and doctor are key, expert says

FRIDAY, NOV. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Becoming a partner in your health care will help you get the most out of your primary care doctor visits, an expert says.

That's because "primary care is turning its efforts toward wellness and prevention initiatives to keep patients healthy as well as treating them once they get sick," Dr. Anthony Ardolino, executive dean of the Quinnipiac University School of Medicine in Hamden, Conn., said in a university news release.

"For this new approach to succeed, patients and physicians need to view their relationship as a partnership, and patients need to take a greater share of the responsibility for their health," he explained.

Communication and preparation are the key components of a productive doctor-patient relationship, Ardolino said.

Take time to prepare for your visit to the doctor, he advised. This includes having an up-to-date list of not only prescription medications, but also over-the-counter and herbal remedies. These products can interfere with prescription drugs and your doctor may decide to adjust a dose or give you a different prescription.

Prepare a list of questions. For example, you may want to inquire about screening for diabetes, high blood pressure, or colon, prostate, cervical or breast cancer. Ask your doctor if you should have flu, pneumococcal or hepatitis vaccinations, Ardolino suggested.

Provide your doctor with a family medical history, which is a major predictor of health. This includes a list of any conditions that run in your family, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, stroke and cancer.

It's also important to tell your doctor about any changes that you've experienced since your last visit. For example, unexplained weight loss or gain, increased difficultly climbing stairs or new sleeping problems. You also need to inform your doctor about any life-changing events -- such as job loss or divorce -- that may affect your health.

Time can be an issue for both you and your doctor. So it's a good idea to think about your top two or three main concerns or complaints before your visit. Doing so can lead to a more efficient and productive visit for both of you, Ardolino said.

Be honest and open about things that put your health at risk, such as diet, alcohol use, exercise and smoking. Many patients feel too guilty or embarrassed to admit they fall short in these areas, but doctors can help patients develop strategies to improve lifestyle habits.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine offers advice about talking with your doctor.

SOURCE: Quinnipiac University, news release
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