How to get the most out of your doctor visit

Helpful tips to make your visit smooth and productive

Arrive 10 minutes early

Life happens, traffic sucks, parking can be miserable. Plan to arrive to your appointment 10 minutes BEFORE your scheduled time to allow for these unforeseen setbacks. One thing I wish more patients understood is that if you have an appointment at 3:00pm, that means that your time with your doctor starts then. This does not account for time spent checking in, using the restroom, or having your measurements or vitals taken. Every office is different, but most medical facilities have to run on a tightly packed schedule with appointments every 10-30 minutes to allow for every patient to be seen in a timely manner. Considering this, you can see how arriving even 5 or 10 minutes late can strip away those important face to face moments you have with your provider and make your visit less beneficial.

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Have a focused problem list

Having a clear problem list of 1-3 issues is always helpful to focus your visit. Keep in mind, your provider will also have things they need to discuss so less is more here. Really try to focus your questions on things that are most relevant to your reason for visiting that day. Having a concise list allows each concern to be fully addressed rather than walking away with a laundry list of half answered questions. Jot these questions down in your phone so that you don’t forget at the time of your visit!

Know your history

Be able to quickly and completely articulate your medical history at the time of your visit so that your provider can take these things into consideration when providing care. Important things to note include family history, past medical history (think hospitalizations, surgeries or chronic medical diagnosis from previous providers) and medication history. Depending on the nature of your visit, your provider may ask more in depth questions on lifestyle, sexual history, or social history.

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Be honest

As a provider, we frequently have to read between the lines to get the real story from our patients. Over or under estimating your symptoms or the timeline of your illness can drastically change what we consider as a diagnosis. Symptoms like pain or fatigue are difficult to quantify, so we really rely on your accurate description to paint us the full picture. Omitting important details about your medical history can have consequences when it comes to how we treat your current condition. A good doctor will ask pointed questions to tease out the details that are important to your diagnosis. Answering those questions honestly and to the best of your ability will help us provide the best care possible.

Follow through on the plan

When you leave your appointment, there should be a clear plan of action to continue your care. If that plan involves having lab work or imaging done, make sure to have these things done in a timely manner. If it involves a follow up visit or a visit with a different provider, be sure to schedule these as soon as possible to avoid gaps in your care. Organizing follow up care and scheduling these additional visits is typically the responsibility of the patient, but your doctor’s office will be there to help if you are running into any hurdles.

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