Top 10 Tips to Get the Most out of a Doctor Visit

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By: Dr. Jill Murphy, DPT, LAT, CSCS

According to Reuters, the average physician visit lasts 20 minutes. Now that’s the average. We know that some visits can be as short as 2 minutes, or as long as an hour or two. Since it will be difficult to predict which extreme or average your next doctor’s visit will be, it’s a good idea to be prepared when you have something very specific on the agenda. Here’s our top 10 tips on how to make the most of your time with your healthcare provider.

10. Provide all previous records, imaging, lab reports, etc that relate to the issue for which you are seeing your doctor. Send or drop them off in advance if the office prefers, so your medical team can familiarize themselves with your case.

9. Bring along a friend or family member who has some healthcare background, or simply for another set of ears in the room in case you question what was said afterward.

8. If this is a family physician or internal medicine visit, be sure to establish the relationship before any serious medical issues arise. This will allow you to determine if this provider is a good fit for your expectations of your input and involvement in your own care, and gives you time if you need to find a different provider.

7. If this is a new provider or specialist, check ratings on-line, paying special attention to the comments other patients have left. Does this sound legit, or does it make you worry that this provider is not for you? You can also call the provider’s office to be sure they see a lot of cases like yours to ensure a good fit for your medical needs. Word of mouth is often a good way to learn more about a local healthcare provider, but again, take what you hear with a grain of salt.

6. Make a typed timeline of your symptoms and treatments tried and the response to that treatment that is streamlined and easy to follow to give to your new specialist if you are seeing them for the first time for a specific condition.

5. Be sure to have a list of your current medications, dose amounts, how frequently you take them, and for what conditions you take them.

4. Make a list of your allergies to medications as well, noting your response to each medication on your list.

3. Ask your friends and family to help you make a solid list of all of the questions you have about your diagnosis, treatment, surgery, etc, and then prioritize that list, and ask them in the order of priority (you might run out of time to get every question answered, or the nurse may be able to help you answer the remaining questions). Take notes of the answers to your questions during the visit. Also ask how you can contact your provider if additional questions or concerns arise.

2. Know the reason for your visit and think about what you need to have happen at this particular visit.

1. Research your possible diagnoses, so you can ask knowledgeable questions about pros and cons, risks, and side effects of diagnostics testing, medications, treatment options, what will happen if you don’t take a medication or get surgery, etc during your visit. Check out webmd, healthline, Merck Manual, mayoclinic, rarediseases or NORD, or medline plus for some reputable basic information sites, and pubmed.com for medical research articles.