Features December 2018 Issue

Insider Advice: How to Optimize an Appointment with Your Doctor

Follow these 5 strategies to get the most out of a visit with your cardiologist.


AlexRaths | Getty Images

Taking time to prepare for an appointment can lead to better care and a more satisfying relationship with your doctor.

If you have heart disease, your cardiologist will work hard to minimize your symptoms and keep your disease from progressing. But it'll take teamwork. You'll get the best results if you and your doctor work together toward a single goal: preserving your heart health.

Teamwork requires good communication and a frank discussion of expectations. It also means using the time you have together wisely. We asked Cleveland Clinic cardiologists Chete Eze-Nliam MD, MPH, and Matthew Kaminski, MD, for advice on how patients can ensure a visit to their doctor's office is productive and informative. Here's what they said:

1. Do Your Research Ahead of Time

Dr. Eze: We are open to patients being informed, so feel free to read articles about your condition on the Internet-preferably articles authored by credentialed medical professionals. I find it helpful when patients have insights into their disease and its potential complications. Sometimes it helps them understand why we ask them to make lifestyle changes or take medications, and what may happen if they don't comply.

Dr. Kaminski: I also don't have a problem with Internet searches: They help patients formulate questions. But the information you glean should be considered a starting point, not an ending point. There is a lot of myth on the Internet, and it's sometimes hard to separate from the facts. Be open if your doctor adds information to what you have learned or emphasizes something different.

2. Bring Your Records to the First Visit

Dr. Eze: When you're seeing a cardiologist for a second opinion, bring along any lab work, scans and reports on your problem done by doctors in a different hospital system. They provide us with an overview of your problem and help us focus on how best to help you.

If your concern is high blood pressure, it may be worthwhile to bring a record of your blood pressure measurements taken over the previous few days. This will give us a better insight into your blood pressure trend than two or more measurements taken during the office visit can provide.

Dr. Kaminski: Don't forget to bring an updated list of medications, dosages and frequency to the first appointment. Sometimes it's easier simply to bring the medication bottles.

3. Ask Pressing QuestionsFirst

Dr. Kaminski: If there are specific concerns that you would like to have addressed, please write them down before you leave home and raise them early in the appointment. Please don't wait until the end of the visit to speak up. Knowing what's on your mind helps us plan our time with you, and you will be more likely to leave the office satisfied, if your questions have been answered.

4. Remember: You're Seeing a Specialist

Dr. Eze: We cardiologists specialize in providing care for problems related to the heart and vascular system. If your complaints lie outside our area of expertise, we are probably not going to be able to help you. For example, if you make a visit for chest pain, then proceed to talk about chronic pain, we may have to refer you to a different type of specialist.

5. If You Feel Fine, Tell Us!

Dr. Kaminski: You don't have to have a concern to see us. Wellness checks are equally important. Many heart patients go for long periods of time (even years) without symptoms. However, many heart conditions need periodic monitoring to prevent them from worsening. This is often the case for coronary artery disease, prior heart attack, heart failure, high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation. That's why patients should still see a cardiologist regularly-at least annually-for a checkup.

We love it when patients say, "I feel great and have no concerns right now." We want to keep you that way! Providing the best possible care is always our goal, so please let us know when we are doing a good job.

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