Doctors are busy. It is a simple fact of life. This can sometimes mean that patients may feel railroaded and not have questions answered. The doctor may want to spend a leisurely half hour chatting, but there is likely a line a patients waiting for his or her time. You can respect the situation that the doctor is in, but still get your needs met. Here are some guidelines to consider to make the most of your time, money and health.
1. Schedule appropriately. If you have more than one issue to discuss, make that clear at the time the appointment is set. The time scheduled for an exam is often dictated by the complexity of the problem(s) presented. Make sure to tell the scheduler everything you want to talk about at the appointment.
2. Be prepared. Know what your questions and concerns are before you walk in. Write them down. Spending time trying to remember that one more question you knew was important is time you will not have to get the answer.
3. Know thyself. History and other medical issues are important for doctors to know in order to properly advise a patient regarding an acute issue. Being vague about your own history or current medications leaves the doctor with unanswered questions that could affect treatment decisions. Be prepared to give a thorough yet concise summary of your medical history, family history and details of any medications you are taking. Again, it doesn’t hurt to write it out.
4. Be honest. Don’t try to hide embarrassing facts from your doctor. They have heard it all. You will not shock them. It is important to be honest and thorough so that the doctor can make the right recommendations for you. If you conceal important facts, the treatment recommendation may not be appropriate and you will have wasted your time and the doctors.
5. Be assertive. But not aggressive. You are the CEO of your health care. You have the right to competent medical care. If you feel a doctor has not answered your questions or is not listening, you have the right to tell them. However, as in any relationship, being rude or making personal attacks never gets you far.
6. Set the tone. Let your doctor know how involved you want to be in treatment decisions and if you have particular opinions or beliefs that would affect decision-making. Some patients just want to be told what to do with absolute faith in the doctor’s recommendation. Other patients need a lot of information to feel part of the decision-making process and control of health care. Doctors don’t know which you are unless you tell them.
7. Take the reins. If you feel you are consistently not getting what you need from a doctor, change doctors! Even if your health insurer has constraints on who you can see, there are usually several doctors within a single clinic to whom you can transfer care.
Preparation and self-advocacy are the keys to getting the most out of your time with your doctor. Trust that confidentiality laws protect your privacy and are taken seriously. Respect the doctor’s time and expect the same in return. Making the most of this time will help you make the most of your health.