Journaling Your Way to a Productive Doctor’s Appointment

Lori DePorter avatar

by Lori DePorter |

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Despite having a good rapport with my movement disorder specialists, a feeling of dread still overtakes me when I have an appointment looming in the next 48 hours. This occurs even when I don’t anticipate the day’s events being different from the last time I sat — and sat and sat — in the waiting room.

As inconvenient as waiting may be, I don’t think it is the physician’s fault. Many doctors are overscheduled with patients and accompanying paperwork. Most make an effort to spend time with each patient, and in doing so, cannot abide by a fixed schedule.

Artificial intelligence will impact healthcare in coming years, but as patients, we can help the process by being prepared when it is our turn. Keeping a journal about how you feel throughout the day can help to sort the puzzle of constantly changing health.

I find this beneficial when starting a new medication or experiencing new symptoms. You also can write down questions, including anything from medication side effects to the latest research or clinical trials. Be concise.

When arriving at your appointment, check in, update your information, and find a quiet place in waiting room No. 1. Eventually, your name will be called. You’ll spend some time in waiting room No. 2, where the assistant will take the form you filled out in waiting room No. 1 and enter the information into a computer. They’ll also take your vital signs.

After a few attempts with the blood pressure machine, the assistant will manually take your blood pressure — yes, you do have blood pressure, it’s just low. Finally, you’ll be on your way down the hall to your final destination, the exam room. The assistant will settle you in and say, “The doctor will be with you shortly.”

The exam room has now become waiting room No. 3, but at least you have made it through the final door.

Choose this time to be productive. Get those questions ready or use the opportunity to challenge your brain. Look around the room. Find 10 things, then shut your eyes and do a memory recall game. With a bit of luck, you will hear the door handle turn as you finish the memory game. Your neurologist has arrived and will greet you with, “So, how are you doing?”

If you have a journal, or at least something you wrote down in the waiting room, you will be better prepared. You can offer a genuine answer to questions, rather than automatically responding with just an “OK.” You can be an advocate for yourself and help solve your personal Parkinson’s puzzle. You know how you feel better than anyone else.

Just remember to bring your journal and be patient. It’s worth the wait.


Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


diana avatar


If your appointment is at a teaching hospital you'll see an extender like a resident or physician assistant before the neurologist comes in. The neurologist skims their notes and may spend 5 minutes with a patient.


I do go to a teaching hospital. I start with the PA or resident. Quite often, they are qualified to answer your questions or they can get answers for you. They may learn something for future patients from researching your question. If you have concise questions written down, everyone seems to be more receptive to them. It's a visual cue and shows it's important to you as their patient. Also utilize a patient portal and email your doctor. It may not go to your doctor, but those who montitor the emails should direct it to where it needs to go.


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