Getting the Most Out of Your Child’s Visit to the Doctor

Getting the most out of your child’s visit to the doctor

by Marcy Bothwell, MD

Your doctor works hard to make sure that you and your child receive the best possible care. But did you know that you play an important role in the quality of the medical care your family receives? There are many things you can do to make sure that you and your child’s doctor both have all of the information needed for the highest quality care. This checklist outlines important questions you should ask the doctor, and actions you can take. Following these simple suggestions will help to ensure that your child receives quality care.

Tip #1: Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

As your child’s doctor talks, take notes. It is hard for anyone to remember information correctly in a stressful situation. When you are considering your child’s appointment, write down questions that come to mind before the visit. Make sure you understand what your doctor is trying to tell you. Ask the following:

  • What is the name of my child’s condition (also called a diagnosis)?
  • What treatments are you recommending, and why?
  • What are my child’s treatment options?
  • If this is a long-term problem, what can I expect in the future (the prognosis) for my child’s health?

Tip # 2: Keep an accurate medical history for your child.

Keep a card in your wallet with yours and your child’s important personal medical information. 

  • List all the medicines your child takes (including vitamins and herbal supplements).
  • List any allergies your child has, especially allergies to medicines.
  • List any chronic conditions that might have an impact on proposed treatments or surgeries, such as cardiac conditions, bleeding abnormalities, etc.
  • List any surgeries or other procedures your child has undergone.
  • Bring this list with you to each appointment with your child’s doctor.

Tip # 3: Understand how to administer all prescribed medications for your child.

  • Ask your doctor the purpose of the medication prescribed, how often to give it and for how long, and any possible side effects it may have.
  • Repeat the directions back to the doctor or pharmacist, to make sure you understand them.
  • Ask your pharmacist about any reactions the medication may have with other medications or conditions your child has.
  • Read the labels to make sure you receive the correct medication.
  • Become familiar with what the medication looks like.

Tip # 4: Understand your child’s test results.

  • Ask your doctor when and how you should expect to receive your child’s test results.
  • Write down who to contact, and how to contact them, if you don’t get the test results when the doctor tells you to expect them.
  • Ask if and how your treatment plan may change with the test results.

Tip #5: Understand why your doctor is recommending surgery for your child.

  • Are there options other than surgery that can treat the condition?
  • Where can I get more information about the surgery?
  • You have the right to a second opinion from another doctor before you make the final decision about going ahead with surgery for your child. Ask your doctor how to go about doing this.

Tip #6: Be prepared for surgery.

If your doctor recommends surgery for your child, there are some important questions you will want to ask.

  • What will happen during the surgery?
  • Is there more than one way the surgery may be performed?
  • Does one way involve less pain or recovery time for my child?
  • How long will the surgery take?
  • What is the expected recovery time?
  • Who exactly will be performing the surgery?
  • Is the surgeon board-certified?
  • Who will be doing the anesthesia and will I talk to them before surgery?
  • Where will the surgery be performed?
  • Is there information available about the quality of care in the hospital or outpatient surgery center where the procedure will take place? If so, where can I get this information?

You CAN make a difference in the quality of care that you and your child receive. Remember to ask questions, keep an accurate medical history, understand how to administer all medications, what your child’s test results mean, and what to expect if your child’s doctor recommends a surgical treatment for your child.

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