ARE YOU DOING DOCTOR APPOINTMENTS RIGHT?
Once you’ve selected a doctor and nailed down an appointment, there are steps you can take before your visit to aim for the best experience possible.
First, set your goals. Here are the questions Ofri recommends asking yourself before your appointment:
- Is this going to be a check-up?
• Is this a “maintenance visit” for your ongoing medical issues?
• Is there a new symptom or problem you need to bring up?
• Do you need to talk about big events in the near future? (End-of-life preferences, potential diet or lifestyle changes, etc.)
It’s important to be realistic about what you can accomplish at a single doctor’s appointment. Many of us have laundry lists of items we want to discuss with a doctor, but Ofri suggests picking out the two or three most important issues to focus on. Quality over quantity, she said.
And as always, bring relevant health records and test results, medications and insurance information.
GETTING THE MOST OUT OF THE APPOINTMENT
You’ve made it to the doctor’s office. Remember: Appointments are a two-way conversation, and communication is everything.
At Next Avenue, we’ve covered the commonly expressed frustrations with the lack of time doctors spend listening to their patients.
“Not only is this frustrating, it could potentially damage your health in the long term if you don’t get treatment or undergo an unsuitable treatment,” Next Avenue’s Susan Johnston Taylor wrote in a story about standing up for yourself at the doctor’s office. “That’s why self-advocacy is an important skill for anyone navigating the medical system.”
While Ofri asks patients to be patient with the multi-tasking a doctor faces with electronic medical records (EMR), if you’re feeling outright ignored, it’s time to say something.
“Some doctors can listen well while they are typing, but if your doctor does not appear to be listening to you, you are well within your right to politely acknowledge that,” Ofri said. “You could say something like, ‘I know that you have to write this all down in the computer, but if you could give me one minute of your full attention, I’ll tell you the important stuff as concisely as possible.’”
Some of Ofri’s other during-the-appointment tips: keep track of time to make sure your top items are being covered; resist sharing new concerns at the last minute (instead, set up another appointment, phone call or email through a patient portal) and don’t leave until you completely understand your treatment plan.
TIME TO REFLECT
Your experience with your doctor doesn’t end after your appointment. It’s critical to reflect on the time you spent there to decide how to move forward. Here are some questions Ofri recommends asking yourself, even on the way home from the doctor:
- Did you get your questions answered?
• Did you cover your three most important issues?
• Do you know what you are supposed to do now? (Which meds to take? Which tests to have? Which specialists to see?)
Follow through on the plan you set out with your doctor. If you have more questions, find a way to get in touch. And ultimately, if things didn’t work out as planned, know that it’s OK to close the door on one provider and go through this process again with another.
“A relationship with a doctor is like any relationship, and you need to feel that it’s the right one,” Ofri wrote. “If something doesn’t feel right, that’s worth paying attention to. After all, you are entrusting this person with your life.”