Thursday, June 7, 2012

Top 5 Ways to Maximize Your Doctors' Visits

It's not uncommon. You finally had an appointment to see your doctor about an issue that has been bothering you - and you realize five minutes after you left that you forgot to ask him or her an important question. Or, you leave the doctor's office, prescription in hand, but you don't remember or couldn't understand what you were told. These are just two scenarios that play out on a regular basis when it comes to doctors and patients.

If you're lucky, your doctor will take follow-up phone calls, but most don't. So, other than making another appointment or consulting Dr. Google, you don't have many options. Because of this, it is important to be sure that you are prepared for your doctor's visit before it happens. Preparation won't mean that your visit is perfect, but you definitely increase your chances of being satisfied with your doctors' visits.

So - how do you prepare for your visit? Here are my top five tips for making a doctor's visit easier and more efficient.
1- If the receptionist asks what the problem is, don't skirt the issue.

While you might not feel comfortable going into detail (and you don't have to), the more specific you are about your problem, the better the chance that you'll be given an appropriate length of time with the doctor. Of course, we often feel as if the time we have is never enough - but that's a whole other issue!

The receptionist isn't being nosy by asking you about the nature of your visit. Often doctors want that information ahead of time so they also know what to expect. Someone who is coming in with a serious infection will require a different approach than someone who is coming in for a diabetes follow-up.

2- Write down your questions before your visit - and remember to bring them with you!

We all get them - thoughts and questions that seemingly come out of nowhere. And then we say to ourself, "I have to remember this." And then we don't. Don't let this be an issue when it comes to your health and visiting your doctor.

If necessary, keep a note pad by your bed, in your bag, by the phone - wherever you would find it to be most useful. When you think of a question, jot it down, and then bring that list with you. You may not need it, but isn't it better to have it to refresh your memory than to know there was something that you wanted to ask, but you can't think of it?

3- Ask for explanations.

Yes, doctors are busy people - but we are too. Everyone is busy. And, as busy as your doctor is, it is up to him or her to ensure you understand what you've been told. So, speak up. Don't just sit and listen. Speak up if something isn't clear. If you're handed a prescription, in prescription language, ask what it says in everyday language.

If you don't understand what is wrong or what you are supposed to do, you are no further ahead than you were before your appointment.

4- Show up on time.

Yes, often doctors make patients wait. Sometimes it is unavoidable because of emergencies or caring for some patients ended up taking longer than anticipated, and sometimes it is because the doctors don't schedule properly. But you should still show up on time. If your doctor isn't running late, you risk not being seen at all or rushed through your appointment.

If for some reason you can't make it to your appointment, call and cancel. Don't just not show up. That's rude and it doesn't allow for someone to take your spot if there's a cancellation list.

5- Do what you need to do before your visit.

If you've been told to have blood tests or x-rays, or any other type of consultation before your next appointment - do it. Your doctor needs those results to move forward with your diagnosis or treatment. If you show up without having done it, you're wasting your doctor's time as well as your own.

While these top 5 tips to get the best out of your doctors' visits won't guarantee that your appointments will be trouble-free, they should help get them in the right direction.

1 comment:

Clayton Stitzel said...

Writing down questions beforehand is a great idea. It's easy to forget something. Ask your doctor if you can email them to follow up.