Erin Fortin is a rare disease patient advocate and PicnicHealth ambassador. She understands firsthand how difficult it can be to feel prepared for your doctor’s appointments. Over the years she’s developed a few best practices that have worked for her.
Living with a rare disease brings you to a doctor’s office more than the average person. To make the most of your time with your doctor, it is important to be prepared, listen, and speak up in order to build rapport with them. Here are my five tips to help you do this and improve your next doctor’s visit:
- Take notes. When talking to a doctor, it is easy to nod and agree with everything they are saying. It may all make sense at that moment, but the second you leave the office, so much information is forgotten. Taking notes on your phone or in a notebook helps ensure you have all the information to look back on if you forget what is discussed.
- Organize and keep track of your medical records. Having your records and imaging readily available, especially if you are seeing a new doctor, is extremely helpful not only for the doctor, but also yourself. Doctors will want to review your history, but you yourself may want to review your records to mark down how you physically feel and compare them to the actual testing. Programs like PicnicHealth’s Timeline make it easy to integrate your medical records between all your doctors (PNH-related or not), hospital visits, lab work, etc., and keep them readily available in one place.
- Keep a running list of questions between appointments. Whenever a question pops into your head, write it down! Bring that list to your appointment in whatever form is easiest for you; write them out, keep them stored on your phone, or even print them out so you can write the answers next to each question as you ask your doctor. Listen to your doctor, but remember you do not have to be a silent participant. Try to make sure appointments feel like a discussion rather than a one-sided lecture. Don’t forget, it’s your health, and no one knows your story better than you do.
- Stay informed. You are your best advocate, staying informed about PNH news is a great way to understand the disease and any opportunities you might have for new treatments. There are also low-effort ways to participate in PNH research with observational research studies. PicnicHealth is a great platform for both understanding your medical history and contributing to observational research.
- Don’t be intimated. Your doctor may have extensive education and multiple degrees, but don’t be nervous around them, they are humans too, and are there to help you. The more relaxed you are, the easier it is to open up and give them the information they need to give you the best care.
Are there any tips that stood out to you that you haven’t thought of before? Learning tips and tricks from other patients, especially when they can advise what has and hasn’t worked for them is the fastest way to incorporate new techniques in making your life easier with PNH. So go out there and prepare for your next doctor’s appointment; your future self will thank you for having everything ready to go!