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Maximize Your Doctor’s Visit through Proper Preparation

The single most important factor in a successful relationship with your doctor is good communication. Doctors report that patients who leave their visit without asking for what they want (i.e., referral to specialist; change of medication, etc.) are the most difficult for them to work with. Those patients will also report a greater dissatisfaction with their doctor. This is not the time to be timid - nor is it the time to be disrespectful or hostile. You want a partnership for your best health.

The average time a doctor will spend with you at an office visit is 20 minutes - and often you will get only 10 minutes. Your wait time may also be much longer than expected. If that is something that will send your stress meter off the charts, you should address that when choosing a doctor. Once you are in front of the doctor, preparation will maximize your visit:

  1. Make a list of everything you want to discuss and prioritize it by importance to you in case you don't get to talk about everything.
  2. Rehearse how you will most clearly describe your symptoms and any changes in your daily life.
  3. Remember that changes in your behavior, stress levels, anxiety - even depression - are important to share​

Before undergoing tests, ask what those tests are and what he or she expects them to tell them they don't already know. Be clear on whether the office will call you with results or if you are expected to call them –and when results will be available. Write it down. 

When you receive a diagnosis, make sure you understand your condition and your treatment options. Keep asking until you understand. Take a friend or family member with you and have that person take notes for you. Or tape your conversation (ask first) so you can review it later. Ask the doctor if you can follow up with questions by e-mail later - or if you can arrange to call him or her later to follow up. 

Editor’s Note: Submitted by Anne Radack, Activities Assistant, McDowell Village Senior Living

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