Get the most from your medical appointments

An elderly man speaking to a doctor during an appointment

Medical appointments - either with your GP or at hospital - can be overwhelming. There's often a lot to take in, and the time to ask important questions can be limited.

Consultant Cardiologist and BHF Clinical Research Fellow Dr Ramzi Khamis advises how to use your appointments wisely.

Preparing for the appointment

“Make sure you have your current list of medications and, either remembered or written down, any significant events that have happened since the last appointment, or information about what led to the appointment,” says Dr Khamis, Consultant Cardiologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

You could make a list of questions you want to ask, such as any concerns about medications, or about investigations or treatments you may need. If you want to do your own research between appointments, choose wisely.

“Using the right sources for information is key,” says Dr Khamis. “The two things that we recommend are NHS Choices and the BHF website.”

If you prefer printed materials, the BHF offers free booklets on many conditions, tests and treatments.  

During the appointment

The doctor or consultant often has a lot of information to relay to you, so Dr Khamis says listening carefully is important. “Allow the doctor to talk… and if you don’t understand, ask for an explanation,” he says.

As well as asking for clarifications where you need them, don’t forget about the questions you prepared. Dr Khamis says it’s useful to ask specific questions that draw on your doctor’s specialist knowledge, rather than general questions about, for example, dietary advice.

You need to allow the consultant or GP to have your full attention.

Making notes can help you remember details, but Dr Khamis advises making these immediately afterwards. “If it’s too difficult to remember, then of course take notes at the time, but it’s probably better to do it straight after the consultation.

"Otherwise it might delay the clinic and can interfere with the flow of the consultation – you need to allow the consultant or GP to have your full attention.”

If someone is with you, they could jot down key points while you focus on listening. You and your GP should receive a clinic letter after the appointment, summarising what was discussed.

Meet the expertImage of Dr Khamis

Dr Khamis is a BHF-funded Clinical Research Fellow and is currently leading a team at Imperial College London to develop a new way to look at the fatty plaques that can build up inside arteries.

The technique will help to identify those that are most likely to break apart and cause a heart attack or stroke, so that they can be treated as early as possible.

More useful information