Getting The Most Out Of Your Doctor Visits

Time is a precious commodity in the healthcare world, both as the patient and the practitioner. .

When you go to see a doctor, often the visit seems to be over in a flash and you leave wondering exactly what it was the doctor wanted you to do. Doctors are often quite busy and may not present you with all the necessary information so it is your responsibility to take steps to get the most out of your visit.

If you do not have a regular doctor you need to find one who best meets your needs with regards to such things as location, doctor's experience etc. You can find a doctor in you locality through such sources as the internet (use only credible websites), phonebook or by obtaining recommendations from other people. Keep in mind that not all doctors suit all people so you need to feel comfortable with your doctor and his/her set of skills. You may want to ring the office first to find out more about the doctor.

Determine your goal for the appointment do you need a diagnosis, advice on coping with an existing condition, referral to a specialist, a change in treatment etc. Use this goal to guide your communication with your doctor who will generally first listen to your history and then perform a physical examination.

When making your appointment, keep in mind that sessions first thing in the morning or straight after lunch often have the shortest waiting times. Also, make sure you let the office know if you feel you will require a longer than normal session. When you go for your appointment, make sure you have any necessary documentation such as medical records, x-rays, test results, medical insurance information etc. Try to arrive a little early for your appointment so you can fill out any forms if necessary.

Compiling a list of questions prior to the visit is a good idea and you can then write down the doctor's responses next to the question. A list of the symptoms you are experiencing and drugs or supplements you are taking is also helpful and takes the pressure off you trying to remember during the few minutes you have with your doctor.

If you are feeling particularly unwell or even if you just feel you need the support or assistance in communicating with the doctor and recording information, don't be afraid to bring someone with you.

During the session, you may feel overwhelmed by the information or the doctor may be using terminology you don't understand. If this happens, you need to let the doctor know so that he can slow down, rephrase or even write notes or draw diagrams for you if necessary.

Most doctors are very busy and may tend to omit talking about health matters such as diet, weight, exercise, stress, sleep, smoking, alcohol use, sexual practices, vaccines and screening tests. Hence, if you feel any general health issues are relevant in your case, make sure you discuss them with your doctor. Also, find out what screening tests might be available for your age such as a mammogram, colonoscopy etc. Don't be embarrassed or ashamed to discuss sensitive topics with your doctor remember there is nothing you could say that most doctors would not have already heard.

By the time you are ready to leave the doctor's office you should be confident about what you should and shouldn't do, what treatment you need, how to get it, how long it should take to work etc. It is then your job to take responsibility for your health and ensure you follow the doctor's instructions. You may even feel the need to find out more about your condition or its treatment. You can ask the doctor where you can find more information or you can use resources such as the internet (use only credible websites), library, medical professionals or other people.

If you happen to think of more questions following your session or forgot something the doctor told you, call the office immediately and request the information. However, keep in mind that the doctor may request that you make another appointment or he may call you back at a time convenient to him.

Finally, you should feel comfortable with entrusting your health to your doctor. You need to know your rights as a patient and if you have any concerns about your relationship with your doctor, either discuss your issues with your doctor or simply find another one.

Summary of useful tips to maximize the benefits of your doctor's visit:
  • Determine your goal for your appointment e.g. diagnosis, specialist referral.
  • When making an appointment request a longer time slot if you feel it may be necessary.
  • Schedule appointment times for first thing in the morning or straight after lunch as the waiting times are likely to be shorter.
  • Arrive early to fill out any forms that may be required.
  • Have insurance card or any other required documentation or medical records ready.
  • Prior to the visit, write down your questions for the doctor.
  • Prior to the visit write down any drugs or supplements currently being taken.
  • Prior to the visit write list of symptoms and any details relevant to them such as when they started etc.
  • Bring someone with you for support and to help remember and record information delivered by the doctor or if you are too unwell to communicate.
  • Ask the most important questions first.
  • Let the doctor know if you don't understand any of the terms he has used, if he is going too fast or if you're simply overwhelmed by the information.
  • Make sure you know exactly what the doctor wants you to do before you leave the office.
  • Follow the doctor's instructions.
  • Do further research on your condition or treatment if you feel you need to know more.
  • If you have further questions after your session call the office right away.