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5 Tips For Making Every Doctor Visit Count


Effectively managing MS may require ongoing appointments with multiple specialists on your health care team — including neurologists, physical and occupational therapists and others.

And it goes without saying they’re busy (for an inside look at how busy doing what, go here and here).

Making the most of each appointment is vital to living with MS. Here are five tips to help you do just that:

1. Notable concerns
Because MS is a disease that affects the central nervous system, you may have a number of issues and symptoms that you’re trying to manage.

Keep notes of those symptoms, ideally when they’re happening or shortly thereafter in order to capture them while they’re fresh in your mind. Not surprisingly, there are smartphone apps for that and even free, old-school forms you can download that can help you keep track in actual handwriting, too if you wish.

Think about — and include — the variables your doctor will want to know about, such as when a particular symptom started, what the level of pain was, if the symptom(s) subsided and when, etc.

MORE: 18 common home modifications to improve life with MS

2. Get your records together
Though many doctors have online access to your medical records, not all do, at least not in the United States (for a variety of reasons). At a minimum you’ll want to be sure your doctors have updated records for your treatment, which means you’ll want to keep those records yourself and bring updated scans (disks and hard copy reports) and the like that you may be asked to share at the appointment.

It’s also a good idea to maintain — and take — a list of the medications you’re currently taking (for an online PDF file, go here).

Though there are many apps and online resources for keeping your medical records, as always, think security first and know those records contain lots of personal information, the kind that hackers find most attractive.

Make sure your insurance information is up-to-date, too, and that you’ve got your card or documentation with you when you leave for your appointment.

3. Prepare an appointment plan or strategy
The actual time you spend with your specialists often seems to fly by. Take the time in advance to think about what you want to accomplish at each appointment (treatment for an existing or new symptom, overview of progression or treatment plan, etc.). Make a list and then prioritize it.

Distill those priorities into concise questions that you’ll want to ask during the appointment. Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions or share additional information, new developments or ongoing concerns about any topic. If you feel you will need to discuss more than one or two issues, let the scheduler know so your appointment might better accommodate the time needed to cover them.

You may also want to consider how to make the appointment fit your health and schedule, too. What time of day do you feel your best? What will it require to get to the appointment (especially if you have mobility challenges and related assistance devices)? Can you get there on time (or ideally, early so you may get your wits about you) and can you do so in a relatively stress-free, manageable way?

All influence the quality of the time you spend with your doctors.

MORE: 12 ways Amazon’s Alexa can help people with MS

4. Record your visit
The information you discuss with your doctors during these appointments is often complicated and nuanced. Like many people with MS, you may be struggling with cognitive issues and the nature of having an incurable, potentially disabling disease may add an an emotional element to these appointments.

And even with all of today’s advancements in medical technology that make recording what transpires in an appointment possible, at the end of the day, you’re still relaying your symptoms to another person who you then expect to understand and act upon that information.

There are plenty of smartphone recording apps for both Android and iPhones that you may use for recording each appointment. (Be sure your doctor knows you want to record the visit before you turn the recorder on.)

You may also find it useful to bring somebody along with you, too.

5. Be a fan of the (treatment) plan
Your treatment plan is made up of the next steps you’ve agreed upon to take with your doctor (or doctors). According to Health IT,  as of 2015, nearly nine out of 10 office-based physicians had adopted an electronic health record system via an online patient portal, meaning notes from your most recent doctor’s appointment should be readily available to you shortly after each visit.

Review those notes as soon as possible to ensure that you follow your treatment plan and also so you can ask any questions you hadn’t thought of during the visit itself. And then by all means, follow your treatment plan as closely as possible and take notes along the way so you will have them for your next appointment.

MORE: Important things to remember if you have MS

Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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  1. KATE says:


    My son’s symptoms were over a three-month period. It started in his back. On and off for two months, my son had pains and aches across the middle of his back. We saw my aunt who is a chiropractor and then my son’s doctor. Both said he was very tight across his back and suggested physical therapy. It didn’t help. That subsided and then his pinky finger went numb for a few days…again, that subsided. A month later, I noticed he was walking funny…that also subsided. Somewhere in the middle of all this, he experienced balance issues, only once though. We knew something wasn’t right. Right before our doctor’s appointment we noticed his left side was a little weak. His doctor confirmed that he was definitely having issues with balance and reflexes. He referred us to a neurologist. That same night, we had his first spinal MRI and then a day later the brain MRI. Both tests confirmed MS. Turns out he has many lesions in his spine that were causing the back issues.

  2. I like how you explained that it can be a good idea to use an app on a smartphone to take notes when at a doctor’s appointment. My mother has MS and needs to visit a doctor soon so that she can see how the progress she is making is going. She is in a wheelchair, so we will probably need to hire the services of a medical transportation company that can handle wheelchairs. I’ll be sure to mention to my mother that she should take notes during her appointment.

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