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November 2005

Making the most of your doctor’s visit

I came across an interesting article in the Sunday papers about how to get the most out of your next doctor’s visit. As we all know, the time a doctor has for a patient is limited especially for a busy clinic. Thus a social psychologist Sherrie Kaplan advocates “planned patienthood” to help patients get more from doctor visits. Kaplan has been analyzing audiotapes of patient-doctor visits for decades to see what works and what doesn’t for good communication. In general, she has found, women are much better than men at asking questions and being assertive with doctors. “Men, on average, ask zero questions. Women, on average, ask six.”

Here are some useful tips to make the most of your next doctor’s visit.

Before you go

When making the appointment, state the nature of your concern so that a proper length of time can be scheduled.

If it’s your first visit to that clinic or with that physician, be ready to give your medical history.
* Provide information about diseases that run in your family.
* Describe current and past health problems and treatments.
* Bring the original containers for any prescription and over-the-counter medications, herbs, supplements and vitamins you’re taking.

Preparing written information to bring with can help you communicate well with your doctor.
* A short description of your health problem should include a list of symptoms and details on when the problem started, where it is, what it feels like, and if there’s anything you do that makes it worse or better.
* A list of medications you’re taking should include the dose and frequency of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as well as herbs, supplements and vitamins.

While you’re there

When talking with your doctor, remember that your health is worth his or her time.
* Clearly describe your health concern (symptoms, when it started, where it is, what it feels like). Information written in advance can help.
* Restate explanations and ask for clarification, until you’re sure that the doctor understands your concerns and completely answers your questions.
* Don’t forget about your emotional health; it influences your physical health. So mention all health-related concerns, not just the visible ones.
* Make sure your provider is aware of the prescription and over-the-counter medications, herbs, supplements and vitamins you’re taking.

Before leaving, find out…
* if and when you should return for another visit
* whether you are to phone in for any test results or to report on your condition
* if there are certain warning signs you should watch for
* whether there are materials you could take home or a Web site you should visit to learn more about your diagnosis or treatment

Never leave uncertain about your diagnosis or treatment.

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6 Responses to “Making the most of your doctor’s visit”

  • UK Doc says:

    But please, don’t read from your diary every discomfort you experienced in the last few months, summarise a bit, can?

  • Irene says:

    Ha! Ha… Some healthy patients even make the most of their doctor’s(GP) visit for MC .
    Not me!! I swear!

  • dobbs says:

    It is suggested that your should concentrate on two or three things that worry you most and not on the 20 things you’re vaguely concerned about!

  • Palmdoc says:

    I don’t mind patients even reading off a list of coomplaints/questions. Whats annoying is that when the clinic session is almost over and the patient has gotten off the examination couch, they pop the question “Oh by the way, I also have this…..”

  • Jimmy Chew says:

    Indeed that can be made into a checklist with tickboxes!

    Also, another thing I learnt from responsible doctors. They will ask if I am allergic to certain medications like antibiotics. From that, if you know you have allergies, let the doc know. As I know, not all cares.

    Secondly, the same group may not be bothered at all to tell you if the medication will cause drowsiness, so this is something we can ask.

    On a personal account, I went to the extent of asking what foods I can safely consume (it’s good to know); and the name of medication. These things fascinates me.

  • nudibranch says:

    I only see women … in the gynae clinic it can get frustrating when women cant tell when their last menstrual period was , if the husband’s around i’ll ask him , he’ll be able to tell the exact date .
    I think in our community , it is very important for doctors to explain to the patient what they are going through and make them understand as this would make life easier if they see another dr. and also a lot of patients dont ask what they have , they just follow instructions n take the medication given

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