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Get the Most Out of Your Doctor Visit

You may only have 15 minutes with your doctor. Go prepared

In these days of managed health care, often more time is spent in the waiting room and with the doctor’s support staff than with the actual health care professionals. While each person there is a valuable part of a team, the doctor, physician’s assistant or equivalent is there to diagnose and treat your problem, so it’s important to get the most out of your office visit. Once you manage to get an appointment at your doctor’s office, these are some pointers you can use to make sure you maximize the precious face time you spend with the doctor.
Set a goal for the appointment. It’s best not to come with a long list of complaints. A clear goal will allow the physician to focus on how to best help you get the most desirable outcome.
Schedule enough time. If what ails you is especially involved, request a longer time slot to allow a cushion in the doctor’s day for him to give you time for additional attention.
Make your appointment at slow times. Try first thing in the morning and right after lunch. This reduces the likelihood of the domino effect of previous appointments running late kicking in and affecting your appointment.
Write it down. Bring a list of questions that you have, along with the names and dosage of any prescription and over-the-counter meds you are taking.
Bring your insurance card. If you can’t provide a hard copy on the spot, there could be delays in treatment, or you might receive a bill a few weeks down the road.
Arrive early and respect everyone’s time. Allow extra time to fill out forms. (And, yes, you have to fill them out every year.) If you are running late, give a courtesy call. Note: You may need to reschedule your appointment.
Be specific. Now is not the time for modesty and generalizations. Cut to the chase. This will allow the doctor to use her skills to identify the problem as quickly as possible.
Dress the part. Wear clothing that lends itself to easy access to the body parts the doctor may need to examine. The days of completely disrobing for every little ache and pain are over. So if you have a cough, leave the turtleneck at home. The doctor need you to unbutton a button or two to do his examination.
Don’t be a Chatty Cathy. Be specific when describing a problem, but keep the extraneous talk to a minimum. Your doctor wants to go on about his day just as much as you do.
Bring backup. If you have a particularly serious concern, bring a wingman to take notes, provide emotional support and replay anything you may forget. This is a great idea for non-routine visits, when your stress level may be elevated.
The average amount of time a doctor spends with each patient is 10 to 15 minutes, so it’s important to strategize before your visit.

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