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Make the Most of Your Healthcare Provider Visits

Shift in the Doctor Patient Relationship

Learn about the evolution of the doctor patient relationship. Featuring: Deborah M. Miller, PhD; Amit Bar-Or, MD; Robert Fox, MD; Marie Namey, APRN

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Preparing for MS Doctor Visits Telelearning

Learn tips to prepare for successful visits with your doctor. Kathy Costello, MSCN, Associate Vice President of Clinical Care, National MS Society shares ideas on how to build a true partnership with your provider. Each telelearning is offered twice to accomodate all time zones and recorded.


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In this article


Every healthcare provider is different, and it’s important to find one whom you respect and with whom you feel comfortable. Not all healthcare providers are medical doctors (MD). Doctors of Osteopathy or DO’s are medical doctors with additional training who apply principles of holistic care to their practice. Advanced practice clinicians which include nurse practitioners and physician assistants are also healthcare providers who provide MS care.

MS is a chronic disease that currently is not curable. You will live with MS for many years so it is important that you have a good relationship with your healthcare provider – that includes trust, open communication and mutually set MS management goals and treatment strategies. It is important to have a healthcare provider who respects you, your values and priorities, and who wants to work with you to manage your MS and coordinate your care as needed to benefit your overall health. It is well worth the effort to search for this kind of healthcare provider — and to advocate for yourself with your insurance company in order to have affordable access to the healthcare provider that you choose.

The healthcare provider who partners with you to manage your MS may not be the same healthcare provider who helps you manage your overall health and wellness. Bring to your MS provider the issues and questions relating to your MS, and bring other questions and concerns to the attention of your primary care provider.

Do your part by preparing for each and every appointment. Healthcare providers are not mind readers. You know best what you’re feeling; come prepared to describe those feelings.

MS and other condition(s)
If you’re managing one or multiple health issues alongside your MS, it helps to include your primary care provider on your healthcare team as well as the specialists treating your MS. Primary care providers have experience with a broad array of medical issues. They are ideally positioned to monitor all the medications a person is taking and to watch out for potentially harmful interactions. Learn more.

Prepare for your appointment

When you can, bring along a family member or friend — as your backup “ears” — or a recorder so you can play back your visit later to make sure you didn’t mishear anything.

Write it down

  • Keep a journal or list of symptoms, problems and questions that you can bring to your appointment. Prioritize it with the most concerning at the top so that you can cover the most important things if time runs short.
  • Have a list of prescription drugs, over-the-counter remedies, herbals, vitamins or other dietary supplements you’re taking. Download a medication tracking form (.pdf)
  • Practice describing your symptoms and concerns as clearly and concisely as possible.

Review your health insurance plan - know what your plan will or won't cover, especially if you choose to go out of network.

Consider transportation issues - traveling a long way to see the right healthcare provider is often an intelligent investment. However, think through the costs in money, fatigue and stress on family members.

Don’t be bashful

  • While you may have numerous concerns, it is important to prioritize what is most important or troublesome.  Unfortunately, time for appointments is very limited so make sure that your most pressing 2 or 3 problems are discussed.
  • Anything that’s of concern to you — including problems with your mood, sexual function, thinking and memory, or bladder and bowel function — is of interest to your MS healthcare team and important for them to know.
  • If you’re not sure what’s related to your MS and what’s not, ask your healthcare provider to help you sort it out.
  • If you don’t understand what your providers are saying, ask them to clarify.

Ask questions

If a healthcare provider suggests a treatment, ask:

  • Why, and what the expected outcomes are
  • How much to take and for how long
  • If it's covered by insurance and if not, how much it costs
  • What side effects you might expect
If a healthcare provider suggests a medical test, ask:
  • Why you need it, and what the possible outcomes are
  • How it is performed
  • What the benefits will be
  • If it's covered by insurance and if not, how much it costs
  • If there are alternatives
  • When you can expect to hear results
  • If you should phone the office for results, or if the office or testing facility will notify you
In these times of shorter appointments with any healthcare provider, the better you communicate with each other, the more valuable the time you spend together will be.

Patient rights and responsibilities

Your rights
  • To be treated with respect.
  • To have and to express my feelings and opinions.
  • To be listened to and to be taken seriously.
  • To set my own priorities.
  • To say no without feeling guilty.
  • To ask for what I want.
  • To get what I pay for.
  • To ask for information.
  • To make mistakes.
  • To choose not to assert myself.
  • To change my mind.
Your responsibilities
  • To keep scheduled appointments.
  • To be honest with the doctors and other healthcare workers.
  • To give information about my experience and condition as clearly and briefly as possible.
  • To respect the doctors and healthcare providers.
  • To understand that no one has all the answers to MS.
  • To follow the treatment plan agreed upon.

Additional resources


The National MS Society is Here to Help

Newly Diagnosed
If you or somone close to you has recently been diagnosed, access our MS information and resources.

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