How to Make the Most of Your Time with Your Doctor
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Making the Most of Your Doctor Appointments

Making the Most of Your Doctor Appointments

By Kate Stober

Dr. Heather Finlay-Morreale, MD, joined us on February 22 to talk about how to make the most of your doctor appointments. Dr. Finlay-Morreale has both professional and personal expertise with this topic; she is an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School and is living with several chronic illnesses, including myasthenia gravis.


To start the webinar, Dr. Finlay-Morreale shared her journey to diagnosis with MG and her other conditions, which involved lots of “normal” test results. She developed MG symptoms in college but wasn’t formally diagnosed with MG until 2022.


Dr. Finlay-Morreale has interacted a lot with the medical system, in ways that weren’t always positive. She talked about a time she had an exercise stress test and, later, found it very difficult to move and breathe. She took herself to the ER, where she passed out and continued to have difficulty breathing.


This was the start of a difficult medical experience; as she struggled to draw breath, a nurse told her, “Just try harder to breath normal.” She felt ignored and denied her basic dignity by the ER staff.


“This message is so simple, yet it gets forgotten. The people living with the condition are the experts.”
– Michael J. Fox

This experience deeply affected her, and she now teaches doctors how to improve their patient relationships. Her experience as both a person living with chronic disease and a medical doctor gives her a unique insight and a drive to make change.


Dr. Finlay-Morreale shared advice for how to have positive interactions with the medical system and how to make the most of the time you have with your doctor.


Before your appointment:

  • Prepare. Make a list of your questions and treatment goals. Get any pictures or videos you want to share ready. Use a journal or the Notes app in your phone to keep track of questions/comments so you don’t forget if your appointment is weeks or months away.
  • Keep a list of your current and past medications. Include the generic and the brand name you’re taking, what your dose is, which doctor prescribes it and why. Include supplements. Also keep a list of treatments that you tried that didn’t work out. This helps your doctor have a full picture of your condition and is also helpful for insurance purposes.
  • Consider creating and bringing a one-page health history “resume” – your diagnosis, medications, allergies, past hospital visits, family history, and more crucial information that you want your doctor to pay attention to. While this information is likely in your medical record, it’s usually sandwiched between a slew of other notes and test results. A “resume” allows you to highlight important parts of your condition that you want your doctor to know. You can share this with the doctor’s office ahead of time or bring it to your appointment.
  • Remember your right to bring a support person or to ask for translation services if you need.
  • Bring any forms you need to have a doctor sign, such as FMLA forms for your employer.
  • Try to relax the day of your visit so you can manage any anxiety you may have about going to your appointment, taking tests, or drawing labs. Anxiety can exacerbate MG symptoms.


When you’re at your appointment:

  • Give your doctor specific, concrete examples of how your health has been since your last visit. For instance, share what you used to be able to do (walk around the park) versus what you can do now (struggle to walk to the mailbox). This helps him or her understand the scale of your symptoms, and it’s much clear than saying, “I’ve been really tired.”
  • Bring some good questions. Dr. Finlay-Morreale’s recommendations include asking about new medications (what are the side effects? What labs or monitoring are needed?) and about tests (what does a certain result mean? Why is the test being run?).
  • Make sure your doctor knows early in the appointment that you have questions for him or her. Don’t wait until they have a hand on the doorknob, getting ready to walk out!
  • Get your doctor’s opinion on when to go to the ER versus making a call to your primary care provider or the on-call physician. If you suffer a flare up or crisis, you’ll be glad you have this info. Get the doctor’s opinion on which ER near you is the best choice based on your health history. For instance, some facilities may not have a neurologist on call at all times. Your insurance may also play a role in which facility you choose for emergency care.
  • If something is confusing, get clarification!
  • Book your next appointment and any labs before you leave, especially if you’re traveling to visit your specialist.


Dr. Finlay-Morreale’s presentation is well worth your time – she also answers questions from participants and goes into more depth on this topic. Check out the webinar recording below.



Watch other webinars in our Wellness Webinar series on our website.

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