How to Get the Information You Need at Medical Appointments

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Some of my readers may have seen that I recently took this little guy in to have his hearing evaluated. At 16 months, I realized he’s behind in speech and language, and suspected it might be due to not hearing well.

So, I took him in to an audiologist, and sure enough, he is/was having some middle ear issues (likely ongoing fluid or ear infections…he’s so chill he doesn’t really fuss about it). This was causing him to have some mild hearing loss, which means he isn’t getting all the auditory information he needs so that he can develop speech and language.

After the appointment, I realized that even though I’m a professional who works with speech, language, and hearing, it’s different when you’re a parent, and I had honestly been busy processing what I was hearing and didn’t necessarily ask everything I wanted to.

So I wanted to share some tips, some things I thought about afterward, that I’ll do next time to help get all of the information I want or need.

Bring Another Person to Important Appointments

When you are the only one at an appointment, a lot of your energy is spent just wrangling your child (or maybe that’s just my children, haha). If you have another person with you, you have someone else to also listen to the information, someone to help remember key points or take notes while you change diapers or manage the snack rations.

Make a Written List of Questions

Whether it’s a to-do list on your phone or an actual piece of paper with questions, if you know what you want to ask ahead of time, it’s helpful to write it down. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in an exam room and either get flustered or distracted and when the provider asks if I have any questions, my mind just goes blank.

Ask For Written Reports or Records

I wish I would have thought of this at out appointment–because of privacy laws, you usually have to fill out a release of information to get records, even for your own children. If you can, ask about getting your records at the appointment so that you can sign any releases necessary. Then, you can review the records when your kids are in bed if you want to, and make sure you understand what they say.

Ask the Provider Open Ended Questions

Having been both a parent and a provider has helped me feel more comfortable asking questions. Sometimes, when I’m working with families, I realize I’m just jargon or terms that make total sense to me, but are definitely not things most people say. When my families ask me questions, I’m so grateful they’re willing to point out to me that the language I’m using doesn’t make sense to them. I’m not doing it because I want to sound smart or whatever, it’s usually a word or phrase I use so often I’ve just forgotten it’s not common for everyone.

Now when I got my kids’ appointments, I feel totally comfortable asking questions like “I don’t know what that means, can you explain it please?” Or, one of my other favorite questions–“Help me understand why….” or “Help me understand how…” Most providers are very willing to explain again or in another way, and if they’re not, it’s possible they’re not a good fit for your family.

Find Out Next Steps, and How to Reach the Provider with Questions

One of the things I find frustrating sometimes as a parent is that our medical system in the US often feels fragmented. Even though you may have a primary care provider coordinating things, you may not understand what you need to do to follow up after any given appointment.

Ask your provider something like “What are our next steps?” or “So, after today, what should we do next?” A question like that can help clarify what you need to follow up on, but also gives the provider a chance to tell you what he or she is going to do as well.

I also recommend that you ask the provider how you can contact them (email? phone? through an online medical record?) if you have further questions. I often find myself with questions a day or two later after I’ve thought things through, and it’s so nice to already know how to get in touch with them to follow up.