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The biggest topic of discussion when going to a doctor’s office is usually the wait times. People will choose doctors based on not only their skill but the wait times. Let’s face it, no one wants to wait for an hour or more just to be seen for a few minutes. The typical doctor’s appointment can last anywhere between 5 – 15 minutes. Of course regardless of whether it’s 5 or 15 minutes – it will never feel like enough time to get out everything you want to say. If I had a nickel for every time I have remembered something I wanted to ask on my drive home… well, I would have plenty of nickels. It might seem unfair that you are expected to get all of that out in such a short time, however doctors routinely see up to 100 patients per day in addition to the administrative parts of their jobs.
So if you only have an average of 10 minutes to talk to your doctor, how can you be most prepared?
Before the Appointment
Make a List, Check it Twice
If you make to do lists and grocery lists, then making a list of things you want to remember to discuss with your doctor is equally as important if not more so. Make sure you list any symptoms you want to talk about, new or old. Any questions or concerns you have about treatments and how they are affecting your daily life. Make sure your list has the most important topics first so you can remember to get those asked in case you run out of time. If you do run out of time, ask your doctor if you can leave your list with them and maybe have them follow up with you at a later date with the answers to your questions.
Gather Important Information
You will want to make sure you have all of your doctors and medications together to share with your doctor. This is especially important if you are seeing a new doctor. Depending on how many medications you have, it might be easier to make a list of all of the current medications (make sure to include dosage strengths). You will need to list all of your doctors so that the doctor can coordinate your care with your other physicians. It seems like a lot of information to take to an appointment, but if you type it all up once it will save you time later and you can just make copies. Just make sure to update it with any changes as they happen.
During the Appointment
Consider Bringing a Friend or Family Member
If you are concerned about bad news or if you are confused about the treatment plan it might be a good idea to take a friend or family member with you. It’s a great way to have someone to help you stay on track with your list or ask any questions if you are uncomfortable asking or emotional. If you have a hard time remembering what is said during an appointment, it’s a great idea to have an extra set of eyes and ears to help you remember.
Make Sure you Understand What’s Said
Sometimes medical lingo is hard to understand. If your doctor says something you don’t understand, don’t feel bad about asking him to clarify what he is saying. If you have hearing or seeing aids, make sure they are on during the appointment. If you don’t agree with part of the treatment plan, speak up. Ask your doctor any question you have. Remember doctors are people too, and if you don’t tell them what is going on they won’t be able to answer your questions.