1. GET THE FACTS OUT

The doctor will always want to know:
– What your symptoms are and when they began
– If you have seen another doctor or tried other treatments such as traditional Chinese medicine remedies
– If you have any idea what could have caused your condition
– Your lifestyle: Do you smoke, drink or play sports?
– Your family’s medical history
– If you have experienced a major change recently, such as the death of a loved one or the loss of your job, all of which can affect your emotional health

2. DISCUSS YOUR MEDS

Let the doctor know if you’ve taken over-the-counter meds, or if you’re taking vitamins, herbs or nutritional supplements – tell her the name and dosage. You should also let the doctor know if you have digestive problems such as gastritis. Dr Tan Kok Kuan, a resident doctor at Dr Tan & Partners, explains: “Some meds may worsen such conditions, so I’d always want to know if patients have such problems.”

Also ask questions pertaining to the meds the doctor is prescribing. For instance, ask if there are any medications you should avoid taking while on the prescribed meds or how soon you can expect to get better after taking them. In addition, let the doctor know if you have travel plans. Dr Tan explains: “Travelling may affect the time the patient has to take the meds, and some antibiotics can increase the risk of sunburn.”

3. TELL THE DOC WHAT YOU NEED

To save time, Dr Sim Li Kun, a resident doctor at Dr Tan & Partners, suggests telling the doctor exactly what you need, be it medicine, a medical certificate (MC), referral letter to a specialist or a specific blood test.

4. ASK FOR A LONGER CONSULTATION

…especially if your symptoms have persisted for weeks or if previous medication hasn’t helped. “Let the receptionist know during registration, or she may just give you a five-minute slot which isn’t enough time,” advises Dr Cheryl Kam, a family doctor at Complete Healthcare International.

5. PROBE, PROBE, PROBE

Ask questions like the following to understand your illness:
– How you could have caught it?
– How can you expect to feel in the days ahead?
– Is there any activity or food you should avoid?
– Are you contagious?

6. HAVE A BACK-UP PLAN

Always find out what to do if your illness worsens. Should you call the clinic, head straight to the hospital or just increase the medicine dosage?

7. DON’TS

Lie to your doctor
Don’t fake an illness just to skip work. “A patient once took me through a discussion of his symptoms, and yet, I couldn’t find anything wrong with him,” says Dr Kam. “The penny only dropped when he asked for an MC.” If your job is making you miserable, just say so.

Be vague about your allergies
Don’t make general statements like “I’m allergic to painkillers” or “I can’t take that small white tablet”. Write down the names of the meds you’re allergic to and keep the list in your wallet for easy reference.

This article was originally published in Simply Her April 2015.