Eight out of ten adults had contact with a healthcare professional in the past year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Eight out of ten adults had contact with a healthcare professional in the past year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In Marion county, there were 10,329 emergency room visits and 3,241 hospitalizations in 2013. With all this doctor-patient contact, there are also frustrations.

A Consumer Reports survey of 1000 Americans shows that the main complaints involve communication, especially a doctor’s unclear of incomplete explanation of a health problem. Do you remember the last time you complained about a medical visit? Maybe you were frustrated because you left without understanding what your doctor said. Or you felt rushed and didn’t get to ask your questions. Or maybe you didn’t like how you were treated.

To get the most from their appointments, Belinda Krchelich, RN, BSN, OCN, Cancer Patient Navigator at James E. Cary Cancer Center, says to “Always write down questions. Go with questions. A lot of the time, patients come in and don’t know where to start.”

When she helps patients, Krchelich always asks them, “What do you want to get out of the appointment?” She takes notes and provides a summary of their cancer diagnosis, including a list of characteristics, staging information, and pathology terms. The patient navigation program is fairly new, but patient surveys show satisfaction is high.

Here are 3 steps to become an active partner in your health care and make sure your doctor visits go smoothly:

Step 1: Prepare for your doctor’s visit

Whenever you visit a healthcare professional, make a list of questions and write them down. Start with the questions below and add your own:

• What health problems do I have?

• What should I do about them?

• How do I take my medicine – how often, what times of day, and how much?

It’s also a good idea to gather the medicines you take and bring them or a list of them with you.

Step 2: During your visit, ask your questions and check that you understand your doctor before you leave

During your appointment, ask your questions and write down the answers on the same piece of paper. Start by asking the questions that are most important to you. Your questions help your doctor learn more about you and their answers help you make informed health decisions.

Check that you understand by repeating the information back to the doctor in your own words. You can say:

“I think what you are saying is… Did I get that right?”

Step 3: After your visit, follow your doctor’s instructions

After you meet with your doctor, follow their instructions. For example, you may need to fill a prescription at the pharmacy, make another appointment for tests or lab work, or schedule a follow-up visit.

There are times when you should call your doctor. Call your doctor if you:

•Have any side effect after taking a medicine

•Have symptoms that get worse

•Haven’t gotten results of any tests you’ve had – don’t assume no news is good news

•Don’t understand your test results