How to Talk Effectively and Efficiently with Your Physician
John just returned home from a visit with his doctor, and his wife, Jean, asked about the visit, “Well dear, how did your visit go today? Did the doctor change any of your medicines?”
“I don’t think so, but I haven’t gone over the refills on my prescriptions yet,” John answered.
“What did the doctor say about that little mole on your lower stomach?” Jean added.
John responded, “Oh I forgot to tell her about that. She was so busy and behind schedule. She just looked frazzled because the patient before me had to go into the hospital and I didn’t want to be a bother. My visit went so fast I just forgot everything I wanted to talk with her about.”
. . .
Sound familiar? This type of visit happens far too often, and it is one of the reasons so many people are disappointed with their medical care. Not only that, but a visit like this can lead to serious medical problems not being addressed in a timely manner.
Today’s physicians are often on a tight schedule. So, patients and their families need to prepare carefully before every routine appointment.
Here are five tips to have you prepared for a visit with your doctor.
- Make a list of all the medicines you are taking—over the counter medicines, vitamins, supplements and any medicines prescribed by other practitioners. Be sure to include medicine dosage, frequency and any side effects.
- Make a list of any new problems you are having. Don’t be shy. Don’t think the problem will just go away by not mentioning it. How frequent is the problem? What activity seems to cause the problem?
- Take a family member with you to the visit. The doctor may make changes in treatment or medications. Your family member needs to listen, understand and write down the new instructions with you.
- If the doctor orders new lab work or testing, there are a number of questions that you should feel confident to ask:
- Why do I need the test and what risks are associated with the test?
- How much does the test cost?
- Is this test covered by my insurance?
- Is there a co-pay and how much is the co-pay?
- Does the cost and co-pay vary at different sites and providers?
- What are the outcomes of the test and what will the doctor do depending on the outcome?
- When will the doctor know the results of the test?
- Will the doctor or office call to let me know the results of the test?
- When should I call if I haven’t heard from the office about the test results?
- Before you leave, always have a clear understanding of the next steps you must take in preparation for a return appointment or referral to another physician. If you have tests that must be completed before your next visit, make sure you know how far in advance you must complete the test so that the doctor can discuss results with you at your next visit.
Remember, a physician visit is all about your life and your health. You have a responsibility to yourself and to your family to be prepared, so be inquisitive about anything you don’t understand. If you use these tips, your physician will appreciate your consideration for your health and their time. Taking advantage of these tips will also make you more satisfied with your doctor visits, and will ultimately help make you a healthier person.
By Michael Stoltz, M.D.