10 Tips to Get The Most From Your Dermatology Visit

Having a high quality doctor’s visit takes effort on my part and on yours. Here are 10 tips to get the most out of your next dermatology visit with me or any other dermatologist.

1. Write down all the questions you have and things you want to discuss with me. Be sure to list any spots you’d like me to check or any moles that have changed. Have a loved one lightly mark spots on your skin they are concerned about.

2. Know your family history: Has anyone in your family had skin cancer? What type? Patients often have no idea if their parents have had melanoma. It matters. If possible, ask before seeing me.

3. Know your history well: Have you had skin cancer? What type? If you have had melanoma, then bring the detailed information about your cancer. Your prognosis depends on how serious the melanoma was, that is its stage, 1-4. You need to know how it was treated, if it had spread, and how deep it was. The answers to these questions determines the risk of your melanoma returning.

4. If you have a rash, there are a few things I’ll need to know: Have you changed any of your medications? Soaps? Moisturizers? Cosmetics? Do you have a history of eczema? Asthma? Hayfever? Does anyone in your family have a skin disease? Take a picture of your rash at its worst with your phone; the rash might be improved by the time you see me.

5. If you are seeing me for acne, come prepared. Keep a journal of when your acne is worse. Is it around your period? When you are stressed? In summer or winter? What products or cosmetics are you using? What treatments have you tried? Have you had dryness or burning with previous treatments?

6. If you are seeing me for hair loss, then collect your hairs that fall out and count how many you lose in one day. It’s normal to lose 100-150 hairs per day. Make a list of other symptoms or health problems that you think might be related to your hair loss.

7. Always be honest with me. I’ll never judge you even if you are an avid tanner or a picker. I’m here to help, and I can only help if I know the whole story.

8. Have you read something online that you’d like to discuss with me? Print it and bring it. Sometimes patients will tell me they saw something about their disease on the web; without knowing the source, I cannot say if the information is valid or helpful.

9. Am I leaving too soon? Stop me. My time with you is yours. If you see me heading for the door, then tell me that you still have things you’d like to cover. If we are out of time, then ask me if you can set up a follow-up appointment to continue the visit.

10. Don’t leave empty handed — I’m not talking about the freebie hand lotion or drug samples. For every doctor’s visit, you should leave with printed or written instructions about what we discussed and what you should do next. Patients who receive hand-outs from their doctor are more likely to have positive outcomes.

Have you had an excellent or not-so-excellent dermatology visit you’d like to share? Do you have any tips for us?

Photo: Maggie Osterberg

5 thoughts on “10 Tips to Get The Most From Your Dermatology Visit”

  1. Perfect! The doctor/patient interaction is a partnership. I am so much better able to meet someone’s needs when they come prepared with this information. I also appreciate when my patient has someone circle or mark the skin spots of concern to be certain that they get my diagnosis for exactly the spots that troubled them.

    Over the years, I’ve learned to keep a tablet of NCR copy paper in the exam rooms and send people home with my hand written notes containing their specific treatment recommendations, lists of ideas or resources etc. The patient gets a copy and one goes in the chart for my staff and I to refer to in case they have questions about it later. I also have pre-printed handouts that I’ve written for the common conditions that I treat and I give them those as well. Now that we have the web, I am putting some of this general information on my blog and referring my patients to that as well and it’s easier to keep it updated than the pre-printed materials. I tell people that the more times they hear something, the better able they are to remember it-just like when we were in school. Now patients have my notes, my handouts and my blog, all of them written in my voice to help trigger their memory of our conversation and the points we discussed. I find that really satisfying because it offers health education pertinent for their skin conditions.

    When I redo the patient info page on my web site, I think it would be good to put a link to your post and ask people to consider referring to it. Great resource, thanks.
    Cynthia Bailey MD, Dermatologist

  2. Wow, this is absolutely useful. You could do a Derm Pet Peeve list too! I’ve always wondered if it’s to have greasy sunscreen on when my derm touches the sticky skin on my face. Should I just not apply it, if it may cause confusion or misdiagnosis (it makes me appear to have oily skin)?

  3. @cynthia
    Sending patients to your wonderful website is a great idea. I use electronic medical records and give a printout of the diagnoses, medications, blood pressure, instructions, etc.

    Thank you! Wearing sunscreen when you see me is not a problem. Although it is best to wipe off makeup.

  4. JESSIE GREGG says:

    @ Dr. Bailey & Dr. Benabio: Neither of you posted any requirement to see any existing blood results for prospective patients. Do you not need to review the situation from the inside rather than only the outside surface? I’m planning a visit to the dermatologist and thought it might make sense to carry my blood tests, albeit I am unsure which tests might be relevant.

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