10 steps to get the most out of your consultation with your doctor

Some tips for making the most of your appointments from the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases (EFA).

COPD can be complex, both in terms of what’s happening physically and its effects on your life.  You might have many questions for your doctor, but with limited time in appointments, it may be hard to get all the guidance you need.

Preparing for a structured conversation with your doctor can help you to get the most of your time with them.

Here are some tips to prepare that other people with COPD have found useful: 

1. You're an expert too

Your doctor is the authority on medical matters, but you are the expert on how it is to live with your COPD. 

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2. Prepare

Try jotting down your key questions and bring that list to the consultation. If possible, you could also send it by email to your doctor beforehand. 

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3. Prioritise

Put your questions in priority order –if you run out of time, you can ask the least important questions next time).

Think about your expectations and goals. This may help you prioritise. 

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4. Self-assess

The COPD Assessment Test, or the CAT is a quick, useful way to gauge how COPD is impacting your life and how that may change over time – www.catestonline.org/

Why not share the results during the next appointment? 

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5. Be proactive

Don’t be afraid to speak up and make it clear you have some important issues to discuss. Remember that this appointment is about supporting you. 

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6. Don’t worry!

Never feel you have to be brave about your COPD in front of your doctor, and always speak frankly. Doctors see patients day-in day-out and there is absolutely nothing that cannot be shared with them about your doubts and questions.

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7. Follow up

Ask for a written self-management plan that could help you at home in managing COPD on daily basis. If that is not available, you could note down any changes you experience between consultations and how those changes are evolving or disappearing. 

COPD is not always the same as time passes and different people experience COPD in different ways. Sometimes patients perceive the impact of their COPD as ‘normal’ when there might be ways to improve the way they manage the disease. 

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8. COPD is team work

Ask what else you can do or what other services might be available to support you.

As COPD affects the whole body through your lungs, you may benefit from the support of a dietician, physiotherapist, psychologist or smoking cessation support or rehabilitation programs.  

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9. Check further information/support on COPD

Ask about patient and peer support groups and/or any apps or resources your doctor could recommend. 

COPD management isn’t just about clinical control, and like many patients, you may be looking for further information or advice on managing COPD. Other patients may have those everyday tips that doctors may not know. 

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10. Take notes

Take notes during the consultation, or bring your own note-taker.

This could be a partner or someone you trust. You may find they help you remember what was said, and it can be very useful to talk through the appointment afterwards. 

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