Make the Most of Your Doctor Visits
When you go to your doctor’s office, you may find yourself spending more time in the waiting room than in the examining room. Patients today spend about 15 minutes actually seeing their doctor.
What’s more, doctor visits have become more complex. Doctors are making more diagnoses per visit and managing multiple medications. Plus, patients are challenging the traditional model of “follow doctor’s orders.” With Web and other drug advertising, people are likely to ask more questions or voice strong opinions about their care.
Research shows that patients who are active and involved with their own health care decisions tend to get better results. To get the most out of your visit, approach it as if you were planning for a business meeting. Organize your thoughts, establish an agenda, and by all means, write things down.
Do you have symptoms? Write down notes about when they started, what happens when they occur, and what makes them better or worse. Are you on medication? Write down questions about how long you’re supposed to take it, the likely side effects, the costs, and if there is any food, drink, or activities you should avoid while taking the medication.
Doctors offer these recommendations to make your visit to the doctor an effective, beneficial one:
If you can, make an appointment early in the day. Throughout the day doctors may be called away by emergencies, or they may just not able to keep up with all the patients they are scheduled to see in a day. The earlier your appointment, the less likely you’ll be affected by schedule changes. If the doctor is running late, you should be given an update or estimate of his or her arrival. If you’re not told, ask.
Mention all medications you are taking. This includes all the medications prescribed by other doctors, over-the-counter pills, and even those medications that you are supposed to take, but don’t. Make a list, or better yet, bring all your pill bottles with you.
Tell the doctor about your concerns or fears. Make a list, in order of importance, of medical concerns or worries that you have. If you smoke, are depressed, or are under stress, your doctor can help.
Bring along a family member or friend. If you think you may have a hard time remembering and understanding the doctor’s recommendations, it’s okay to have someone accompany you to the office.
Before you leave, make sure you know what you’re supposed to do next. When are you due back? Are you supposed to call, or will someone from the office call with your lab results? What routine screenings are coming up next? How should you prepare for them? Don’t leave the doctor’s office unclear about what happens next.
Your relationship with your doctor is a partnership. Effective communication will help you and your doctor make the best decisions for your health.