How can I maximize my appointment with my healthcare provider?

November 26th, 2015

Currently, our healthcare system is under stress.  Health care providers are seeing many patients and they may not have the luxury to spend as much time with them as they would like to.  This means you need to make sure you make the most of your appointment.  You need to cooperate with your healthcare provider and work as a team.  I have seen some rude and maladaptive behavior from patients who may not realize they are hindering their healthcare provider with their actions.  Here are some tips based on actual patient encounters.

  • Turn the cell phone off.  You may use the cell phone for apps while you are waiting, but do not use or look at the phone while your healthcare provider is talking to you.  Not only is this rude, but you force the healthcare provider to repeat her/himself unnecessarily because you were distracted.
  • Place less emphasis on self-diagnoses that you found the internet and more on what your provider says.  Many health websites are not written or verified by experts.  You may discuss what you have found with your physician, but don’t be offended if they do not think that is what you have.  Many conditions can present with the same symptoms.  Your healthcare provider is trained to do a full assessment specifically with you in mind.
  • Don’t play “Stump the Doctor”.  I’ve had some patients who have withheld information hoping for the doctor to come to the same diagnosis they found on a website where they put in their symptoms.  Every piece of information is important when it comes to diagnosing diseases.  You should be open and honest with your provider.  You may think that your trip to Brazil last month isn’t an important piece of information, but it can be a very valuable clue to the right diagnosis.
  • Write down a list of questions before your see your provider.
  • Take notes so that you won’t forget any important information or instructions.  I always recommend bring a pad and paper.
  • Bring all your current prescribed medications in their original bottles.  Many pills look the same and most physicians are not trained to know what each pill looks like.  Saying, “I take a small white pill for blood pressure” does not help to identify the medication.
  • Write down your home blood pressure (if you have hypertension) or blood sugar (if you are diabetic) readings
  • Ask about what signs/symptoms to watch for and what to do if your condition worsens.
  • Ask for copies of test results, X-rays, and blood pressure readings for your own records.  We should all be keeping records of our health.
  • Before you leave the exam room, let the provider know that you want to summarize the visit and to ask them to comment if everything was summarized correctly.  For example, “I came in today with a runny nose, it is likely due to seasonal allergies to pollen, I’m going to start taking anthistamines and buy an air purifier for my home and keep the windows closed.  If it doesn’t improve in one month, I am going to follow up with an allergist.  Is that all correct, doc?”