5 Steps for Getting the Most out of Your Doctor’s Visit

5 Steps for Getting the Most out of Your Doctor’s Visit

We’ve all experienced that rushed feeling when you realize the doctor’s visit is going to be finished at supersonic speeds and you can’t remember everything you wanted to talk about. Here are five important steps to get the most out of your visit:

1. Book correctly. When the receptionist asks you what this visit is regarding, this is no time to be timid. Name everything you hope to discuss with your doctor and she will schedule you accordingly. Skimp on this step and you run the risk of being limited to only being seen for the one thing you mentioned when booking. Some offices are strict about this because they have a system for overbooking every appointment slot. Some offices may charge extra for additional queries beyond the main concern, so check on that when you book as well.

2. Write down your questions. Not everyone thinks quickly on their feet. Even though you’ve been musing about your sore shoulder or that little lump on your back for months, when the doctor is considering your blazing strep throat, it is easy to forget about the other issues. If you have a little cheat sheet to refer to, it makes life easier for you and for your doctor. I’ve found physicians are quite receptive to my questions if it looks like I put some thought into them and am succinct.

3. Anticipate questions and prepare answers. Be prepared with quick answers to obvious questions your physician will ask so that you can answer succinctly. He will want to know the level of pain, what does it feel like, when symptoms started, what makes symptoms better, what makes symptoms worse, if it has moved, any other symptoms and allergies or medicine reactions in the past. Your doctor has about 10-15 minutes to spend with you, and knowing what answers he needs to correctly diagnose you will help speed the process.

4. Complete medical history. Come prepared with a detailed medical history including current drugs—both over-the-counter and prescription. When your physician is reviewing his notes, he will compare them with the forms you filled out in the waiting room.

5. Tell the truth. Your doctor may ask very personal questions about your lifestyle and history. It’s important to be completely honest so he can have a clear understanding of your health. Also, if he accidentally slips into medical jargon or complicated words that you do not understand, simply tell him you don’t understand. It’s important that you follow everything he is telling you and resist feeling intimidated by his station. It’s always an option to ask the medical assistant or nurse your questions as they are a good resource for you as well. But they do not take the place of your physician, so follow his advice first. Finally, tell the truth about your financial restrictions. If he is writing a prescription, ask if he has any samples or if he can think of a cheaper option if it is an expensive drug. I’ve had doctors do both for me on the spur of the moment. He might not think of it if you don’t ask.

A little preparation will go a long way when visiting your doctor. With healthcare costs only going up, it pays to be prepared and to get the most out of your visit. You will be a happier patient and your physician will be glad to see you when you have your next visit.

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