You can make a visit to the doctor more or less productive, depending on how you prepare for the visit and what you do when you get there.

This is a situation where doing your homework will pay off for you and for your doctor.

Sit down before you go and make a few lists.

First, make a list of all of the medications you are taking. Not only put down the name, also include the dosage, the doctor who prescribed it and what the medication is supposed to treat. You can also bring the medications with you.

Now make another list — a list of all your allergies. Besides listing what you are allergic to, list exactly what happens to you during the allergic reaction to that material. Don’t forget to include foods and medications.

The next list is a list of all the medical problems you have had in the past. Some of these past illnesses may play a role in your current problem.

So, to the best of your memory, list the diseases and illnesses you have had, along with the dates you had them, how they were treated and anything else you think important. Don’t forget to include all past surgical procedures, when you had them and how they turned out.

Finally, it is a good idea to make one more list. That is a list of your current problems. Be sure to include all the symptoms, when each of them started, what you did about any self-treatment and everything you can think of that you want your doctor to know.

If you have had any tests or X-rays performed somewhere else and not immediately available to your doctor, please obtain these results and X-rays and bring them with you.

It may mean that you have to visit the hospital or place where the tests were done, sign a release and pick up a copy. But, it is worth the effort.

It may provide valuable information to your doctor, and it may avoid costly and unnecessary repeating of the examinations.

Please remember that your doctor may want to do some blood or urine tests when you are in the office.

Do not urinate just before you walk into the office. If you do, you can be sure that the first question you will be asked is to provide a specimen and you will not be able to comply. In other words, plan ahead.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not remind you to bring appropriate financial information with you.

If you have health insurance, bring the information the doctor’s staff will need to bill your insurance company.

Also, since most physicians prefer to be paid for their services at the time of the visit, it’s a very good idea to bring some form of payment with you.

That will further endear you to the doctor and the doctor’s staff.

The bottom line to all of this is that if you take the time and make the effort to prepare for your visit to the doctor, it will go much more smoothly, quickly and efficiently.

If you make the lists I have described, when you are at home, when you are calm and not nervous, you will have better information to give to the doctor, and information is what the doctor needs to diagnosis and treat your problem.

And, once you make them the first time, all you will have to do is update them as you go.

Dr. Michael M. Warren is Ashbel Smith professor of surgery at University of Texas Medical Branch Division of Urology. Write him at

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