Doctors are a fact of life for those who live with chronic illness. Unfortunately, doctors’ appointments can be frustrating. Many people leave with unanswered questions, confusion about next steps, and the feeling that they aren’t on the same page as their doctor.

Luckily, there are people who have done this before, and can offer advice. Ricky White is a Registered Nurse who lives with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). In his book Taking Charge: Making Your Healthcare Appointments Work for You, Ricky addresses common problems patients face with their healthcare providers, and offers solutions on how these can be resolved.

Below are five of Ricky’s tips on making the most of your healthcare appointments.

1) Reduce barriers:
Everyone has barriers that get in the way. The first step to reducing barriers is to identify what they might be. Think about what makes you frustrated- distance, timing, or feeling disconnected. After identifying your barrier, you can think of solutions through communication or planning.

2) Planning: Appointments can feel like they leave you with more questions than answers. Planning what you want to discuss, questions you have, and how you’ll communicate will help. Write them down ahead of time and bring all important documents (like your insurance card and ID). Set long and short-term goals to help. Guide these with “SMART” (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time bound).

3) Stay organized: Keeping track of your health picture will help you be efficient and productive. It also lets you see if your treatment plan is working. Take notes in a designated notebook with a medication schedule. Use a symptom history to track duration, frequency, cause, and how you relieved them.

4) Manage multiple appointments: Often, you will have to manage many doctors, which are tricky to track. Write down each appointment’s date and time, who it is with, where it is, and your arrangements for a follow up. Bring summaries of what each specialist said to improve communication.

5) Have a reflective process: It is important, after each appointment, to reflect on what happened and how you felt. This will help you remember, learn about your treatment, and make decisions. Describe the events, identify your feelings, see what was good or bad, understand the situation, and think about next steps.

About Ricky White:

Ricky White is an author, nurse, and patient advocate based in Virginia. Originally born in Leicester, England, Ricky worked as a nurse in a variety of hospitals before being diagnosed with the chronic, degenerative disease, Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). He now works as a patient advocate for those with AS, and is the vice president of Walk AS One, a global 501(c)(3 )non-profit dedicated to raising awareness of AS. In addition to Taking Charge, Ricky writes on his blog: You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Check out his book Taking Charge: Making Your Healthcare Appointments Work for You

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