7 Tips for a Better Doctor Visit

Next week I have my first big follow up after finishing cancer treatment. There are three scans then the oncologist visit for the results.

I’m feeling a little nervous.

What I’m not feeling is unprepared.

Navigating a doctor visit is all about being prepared. After surviving cancer twice, I’ve learned how to get the most out of the short time allotted to patients these days.

In 1992 Medicare made the decision that doctor visits should be fifteen minutes long and most physicians adopted the practice.

In just fifteen minutes you have to greet the doctor, tell her your symptoms and ask questions, she has to answer your questions, examine you, diagnose you, decide on a course of action, order any tests or medications and record all of it on the computer.

It can take me longer than that to decide which toothbrush to buy.

Not only are we as patients frustrated but the medical community is being made to work at a frantic pace.

Research has also shown that shorter visits increase the likelihood of a patient receiving a prescription for medication rather than a recommendation for a lifestyle change, like food management or stress reduction.

So what can you do to get the most out of your next doctor visit?

Here are 7 tips to help you get more from your fifteen minutes.

  1. Know Your Goal: Know exactly what you need from your doctor. Are you sick and need a diagnosis? Do you need to get a test set up? Are you there to get your test results? Do you need a prescription refill? Make sure you know what your goal is and focus on that first.
  2. You Are The Consumer: Your doctor works for you. Don’t allow yourself to be ignored, talked down to or dismissed. Make your concerns known and accomplish your goal.
  3. Put It In Writing: Before your appointment write down your goal and any questions you already have. Write down any symptoms, remedies you’ve tried and other doctors you might have seen about the same issue.
  4. Medication List: Always keep a current medication list that includes all prescriptions, supplements and over the counter medications you are taking. Bring a copy to every doctor visit. If you have a smartphone, you can take a picture of your list as a backup.
  5. Bring A Friend: Having a friend or loved one with you at a visit doubles your chance of remembering what was said and provides moral support. This is extremely important for complicated or chronic medical issues.
  6. Stand Your Ground: In the rush of a visit doctors can often rattle off information quickly or use terminology you might not understand. Don’t let a doctor end your visit until you have all your answers and feel confident in your next steps.
  7. Get Copies: Always get a copy of any and all test results, including blood work. Your doctor’s office may participate in a patient portal but sometimes the complete report is not included. Get the office to give you a copy of the full report and keep it in your healthcare binder. (Click here to read my blog on how to make one)

When they get to slow down enough to be asked, doctors don’t like the fifteen-minute appointments either. They also feel rushed and overwhelmed. It is the insurance companies, hospital administrators and incentivized large practices that make the policies. Often doctors are caught in the middle between company policy and harried patients.

The responsibility falls back on us to stand up for ourselves and have a complete team to guide us on our healthcare journey. If you have eye trouble, see an eye doctor. If you need surgery, see a surgeon.

If you are someone that wants to use lifestyle and natural remedies instead of harmful pharmaceuticals and invasive procedures, then you need a wellness coach.

Click Here for a FREE Discovery Call with Dr. Melanie!


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