The only thing that makes a doctor’s visit even remotely worthwhile is the chance that you’ll get something from it. But if you’re like most people, sometimes you walk away from the office feeling like you forgot to ask those important questions and also forgot almost everything the doctor said. What are the restrictions, medications, and plan for care? What does your diagnosis mean, again?

Here are three helpful communication tips to help you get the most from your doctor’s appointment:

1. Prepare to Tell Your Story

Preparing to visit the doctor is like preparing to tell a story – you don’t want to forget the important points. Listing symptoms, concerns, and all the important details of your medical story can not only help you convey this information to your doctor in an organized way, but also can help ensure your doctor sees you as a competent partner in your own care.

2. List Your Questions

What are your questions going into the appointment? Instead of expecting to remember these questions at the time of the appointment when stress may make your memory less than perfect, write them down. Then make sure that before you leave the office, each of your questions is answered.

3. Take Notes

If possible, recruit a trusted friend or family member to take notes for you. This way, you can stay focused on your communication with the doctor, knowing that the results will be written down. The entire team caring for you at home may need specific instructions from the doctor and it’s astounding how often different people can hear different things from the same doctor visit. Instead of misremembering or disagreeing about how you remember these specifics, write them down.

Sheri Sobrato
Sheri is a 30-year brain cancer survivor and founder of the nonprofit Digging Deep.